A New Direction for Scrivener? A Review of Scrivener 3 for Mixed LTR and RTL Scripts

Writing a dissertation or academic article is difficult enough on its own, but it can be intensely frustrating if your word processor does not support the kind of formatting needed for your project. This post examines the ability of Scrivener 3 to accommodate mixed left-to-right (LTR) and right-to-left (RTL) scripts on the same line—a function that is a necessity for my academic writing but is rarely supported by word processors. For academic writing that combines LTR scripts like English, French and German with RTL scripts like Hebrew, Arabic, and Urdu, scholars are hard-pressed to find a word processor that can handle the task well. To date, the word processor Mellel has been the only application that can support complex combinations of LTR and RTL scripts, though in recent years more support for RTL languages in Word and other popular programs has begun to close the gap. None, however, have overtaken Mellel.

The first two versions of the advanced word processor Scrivener are counted among those programs that have lagged behind Mellel’s support for RTL. As a consequence, when I used Scrivener 2 in the past, it was for non-technical writing, such as my C.V., course syllabi, or applications for jobs and scholarships, where RTL scripts are used minimally. Scrivener is superb for these less technical projects, and I have always wished for Scrivener to expand its support for RTL so I can use it for more of my writing projects. When I heard that a third version of Scrivener was set to release in late November of 2017, I was eager to see if it could measure up to my go-to word processor for serious academic writing, Mellel 4.

Although most word processors allow one to toggle between LTR and RTL, to my knowledge, only Mellel has the “direction breaking space” that tells the program where a change in direction between LTR and RTL occurs in the middle of a line. This feature of Mellel is critical when combining numbers, punctuation, and a mixture of LTR and RTL in a line. For example, in my research I work with Dead Sea Scrolls, which are referred to by sigla such as 4QGena, where the number indicates the cave where the scroll was found, Q = the site of Qumran, Gen = Genesis, the composition in the scroll, and a indicates that the scroll is the first copy of the composition to be identified in that cave. These documents are written almost entirely in Hebrew and Aramaic, which are RTL scripts, so it is common to quote a scroll in RTL script followed by a citation using the LTR siglum, all on the same line. Furthermore, in editions of these scrolls, there is an apparatus that compares differences of wording between the surviving copies, versions, or translations, which combines strings of numbers, letters in various scripts, brackets, and symbols. An apparatus is fairly easy to write in Mellel, but it has always been a struggle on other platforms because they lack a direction changing space for mid-line transitions. Toggling the direction of writing for the entire paragraph is often the only option, and it cannot accommodate these finer, mid-line transitions. Changing the input source does not remedy the problem either.

This post will test Scrivener 3 to see if it can handle the complex strings of characters found in an apparatus and whether it has closed the gap on Mellel’s superiority for mixed LTR and RTL writing.

I have copied six lines of text and five lines of apparatus from Eugene Ulrich’s The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants.1 This section of Ulrich’s text contains the kind of mixed scripts that word processors struggle to produce, with the exception of Mellel and its direction breaking space.

Example: Mellel 4

Mellel did everything Ulrich’s edition required of it. The only challenge was closing the brackets around the wawyod and lamed in the first line of the apparatus—the second section that is justified to the left margin. The brackets disrupt the order that the string of characters had to be typed, which made it more challenging to compose, though not impossible.

Example: Scrivener 3

Scrivener 3 accomplished most of the task, but it could not handle RTL script followed by “4QGen” in the apparatus.

On every line of the apparatus, Scrivener 3 moved the “4” of “4QGen” to the left side of the Hebrew characters. The lack of a direction changing space in Scrivener 3 is a significant limitation for this kind of technical writing, and it is the reason that I continue to use Mellel for writing my dissertation. Furthermore, Scrivener’s “change of direction” option is buried in the paragraph menu, with no toggle switch in the toolbar or hotkey to make switching the direction of paragraphs simpler. Even if this option were available in the toolbar, it would not address the challenge of mid-line directional changes.

I want to emphasize that Scrivener 3 is an excellent writing platform for compositions written entirely in either LTR or RTL scripts and for projects that do not combine LTR and RTL in the same line. Aside from its handling of mid-line directional changes, I have found no better application than Scrivener 3 for writing composite documents and that supports the various aspects of the writing process, from planning to publishing. For technical writing combining LTR and RTL, however, Scrivener 3 has not quite closed the gap, though it is only a feature or two away.

1. Eugene Charles Ulrich, The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants, VTSupp (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 2.


Some Reflections on the Intersection between Conventional and Digital Approaches to Scrolls Research

Over the last seventy years, Dead Sea Scrolls research has carried on in a permanent state of revolution, with new methods, technologies, and bodies of evidence overturning or qualifying old consensuses. To current PhD students like myself, who are dissertating on the Scrolls, many of the recent advances in digital approaches and tools appear to be changing the face of the discipline; however, to seasoned scholars this revolutionary change is nothing new. Scrolls research has always been like Menelaus wresting an oracle from the shape-shifting Proteus—change and adaptation are the norm. The ill-conceived myth of the triumph of digital scholarship over conventional scholarship simply does not apply. The key consideration for early-career Scrolls scholars is how to follow in the footsteps of earlier generations in usefully integrating new tools and approaches without abandoning the conventional. During research that I carried out this summer in Jerusalem on the Thanksgiving Hymns from Qumran (1QHodayota), I frequently found myself combining the old with the new to address pressing research questions.

1QHa is a particularly challenging scroll to study because unlike many of the rest of the Dead Sea Scrolls, new high quality images, such as high-resolution multispectral images or RTI (reflectance transformation imaging) images are not yet available. Even if they were, however, the plates in the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University,[1] the Shrine of the Book images, and the plates in the edition of 1QHa in volume 40 of the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series would still be indispensable.[2]

The older images document the state of the manuscript in the years after its discovery and in the process of its unrolling—a resource that new digital tools or approaches cannot replace. Consequently, I find myself drawing heavily on conventional editions and photographs, even as I am making digital reconstructions of columns in GIMP and rolling them in three-dimensional environments to compare patterns of damage in digital modeling suites like Blender. When creating a reconstruction of a scroll in its rolled state, it is best to use these early images so that any modern shrinkage, decay, or damage are not baked into the model. Thus, even digital Scrolls research is forever anchored to those initial images.

In addition, when working on problems of material reconstruction, there are questions that cannot be answered relying solely on either editions or digital tools. Scrolls are three-dimensional objects, and certain aspects are not fully captured by existing images; e.g., texture, thickness, shrinkage, light damage, and the extent of delamination. What appear in photos to be patterns of repeating damages, or potential joins between fragments, may be ruled out upon first-hand inspection of the fragments themselves, especially with the help of conservators who are intimately familiar with the physical manuscripts and causes of damage. I found this to be the case when I visited the Shrine of the Book, where 1QHa is archived. Hasia Rimon, a conservator who has worked closely with the Shrine’s manuscripts since 2012, helped me to see and understand the condition of the manuscript and how it has been conserved since its discovery. The same applies for conservators at other institutions that conserve Dead Sea scrolls, most notably the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is responsible for the vast majority of the Judean Desert manuscripts, including the other Hodayot manuscripts.

Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum
Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum. Photo Credit: Author.

Furthermore, a visit to the Shrine of the Book or the IAA is the only way of tapping into the institutional memory of the discovery of the Scrolls and their condition over the course of the last seventy years. For example, anyone who has visited the Shrine of the Book will know of Irene Lewitt’s formidable knowledge of the whereabouts of the Shrine’s scrolls and their photos over the last 70 years—especially that of 1QHa and the other Hebrew University scrolls. A similar knowledge-base exists at many of the institutions in Jerusalem with historical ties to the Scrolls, like the Orion Center, the École Biblique, the Rockefeller Museum, and the Albright Institute.

One of the perennial methodological concerns for digital scholarship is how to use new tools and approaches judiciously and in ways that actually advance the field. For Scrolls research, implementing new digital approaches requires a thorough consideration of the conventional resources, tools, and institutional memories to gain new insights. This combination of innovation and convention is nothing new—it is business as usual for Scrolls scholarship in making use of every available means to yield new insights into the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[Expanded from 2017 Newsletter of the Orion Center for the Dead Sea Scrolls. First published on the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship Blog]

[1] E. L. Sukenik, The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1955).

[2] Hartmut Stegeman and Eileen Schuller, DJD 40.

Works Cited

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Sukenik, E. L. The Dead Sea Scrolls of the Hebrew University. Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1955.

A Font-based Approach for Testing Space for Textual Reconstructions in Dead Sea Scrolls Manuscripts

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

One of the challenges of working with reconstructions of Dead Sea scrolls is checking the work of other scholars. In 1963, Hartmut Stegemann reconstructed the manuscript 1QHodayota, a collection of hitherto unknown psalms found only at Qumran. His groundbreaking work remained unpublished until 2009, so there has been relatively little work done to verify his fragment placements. I am writing a dissertation on this manuscript, so I need to carefully check the less certain parts of his reconstruction. My Sherman Centre project is dedicated to checking one of the most uncertain placements of fragments 10, 34, and 42.

An important aspect of evaluating Stegemann’s reconstruction involves testing the adequacy of the space between fragments for his proposals of textual reconstructions and the text from overlapping manuscripts. For example, 4QHodayota contains text that overlaps with 1QHodayota in column 7, allowing Stegemann to place fragments 34 and 42 near to fragment 10. If there is sufficient space between fragments in a reconstruction for the words supplied from other manuscript witnesses, then a reconstruction is valid—though not necessarily proven. However, if the spacing is inadequate, there are grounds for critiquing the reconstruction.

For testing the spacing between fragments, I am currently developing a custom font that is modelled on the hand of Scribe A of 1QHodayota. Other methods, such as calculating average letter spaces or cropping and supplying letters from other parts of the manuscript in Photoshop, can be time-consuming processes, especially if one has to reconstruct long stretches of text. However, if one has a font that can be sized and spaced to that of the manuscript, it is quick and simple to supply the text in a word processor and superimpose images of the fragments. However, if one wants to critique a fragment placement, it is best to use multiple approaches to strengthen the argument.

I learned about this approach from Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra at manuSciences ’15, a summer school that was devoted to scientific and interdisciplinary approaches for studying ancient manuscripts. When it was first introduced to me, the process of designing a custom font seemed too time-consuming and beyond my capabilities, but, after a little research and some trial-and-error, it was a manageable project. I used the open-source font editor, FontForge, to produce my font. The application allowed me to import images of letters that I cropped from the manuscript so I could quickly trace them and map them as glyphs onto a standard Unicode Hebrew font.

The take-away from this project summary is not that everyone should design his or her own font. Rather, regardless of the type of research problem one faces, it is worthwhile to try new approaches and develop new skill sets. One does not have to be a programmer or innovate a radically new method. With a little creativity, most projects can be tackled with existing tools and platforms.

The Puzzling Case of Fragment 10 — Update

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

It has been some time since my last post, so what follows is an update on the progress of my project and what the next steps will be. To summarize briefly, the problem addressed by this project arises out of Hartmut Stegemann’s placement of fragments 10 + 34 + 42 in column 7 in his reconstruction of the Dead Sea scroll, 1QHodayota.[1] He placed this cluster of fragments on the basis of patterns of damage that he presumed the scroll had incurred while rolled and deposited in Cave 1 at Qumran. There is no textual or physical link between these fragments and the rest of column 7, and they have distinctive spelling and content that is incongruous with the surrounding material. Elisha Qimron has suggested that this cluster has been misplaced and belongs in an earlier column of the scroll; however, he has not proposed a specific placement or discussed the ramifications of removing the fragments from Stegemann’s column 7.[2] Most of the discussion about this problem has taken place in the footnotes of various publications, and a more thorough treatment is needed to outline the possibilities before they can be critically examined and adjudicated. My project seeks to elucidate and to contribute to the discussion using digital tools and recently developed methods to validate the placement of fragments in Dead Sea scrolls reconstructions. For more details on my project, please refer to my prior posts.

There have been two major developments since my last blogpost. I presented the initial phases of my research in the session, Dead Sea Scrolls II, at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting held at the University of Calgary on May 29, 2016. The paper was titled “Testing Stegemann’s Placement of Fragment 10 in the Reconstruction of 1QHodayota: Two Digital Approaches.” I discussed my use of two digital approaches for testing the spacing of textual reconstructions in between fragments (See previous post): one approach that uses a custom font modeled on the handwriting of the scribe and another that supplies “cloned” letters copied from extant parts of the manuscript. The presentation summarized the initial phase of my project, which was dedicated to establishing the research problem and experimenting with digital tools and methods on a smaller, lower-stakes aspect of the problem—Stegemann’s textual reconstructions—before tackling the more complex challenges of examining alternative placements for fragments 10 + 34 + 42 using the same approaches.

After presenting at CSBS, I had the opportunity to spend several days in Jerusalem to examine the manuscripts 1QHa and 4QHa at the archives of the Shrine of the Book and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Although I have access to images of these scrolls, sometimes there are questions that cannot be answered without seeing the manuscripts themselves. The columns of 1QHa are illegible in natural light because they have darkened due to decay, and in many cases one can only distinguish the ink from the writing surface with infrared images. Only infrared photos of 1QHa have been published so far, as they are useful for reading; however, they tend to flatten the features of the leather itself. Questions involving the reconstruction of a manuscript involve paying close attention to the words, the features of the leather, and the patterns of damage that persist throughout the scroll—a task for which IR images are ill-suited. Even if there were a series of high quality photos of 1QHa in natural light, they would not be as helpful as seeing the fragments themselves. One of the major concerns with fragments 10 + 34 + 42 and column 7 is the uneven shrinking and warping of the material and how it complicates attempts to judge the spacing necessary for textual reconstructions. Fragments are three-dimensional objects, so the evidence of shrinking and warping is clearest when viewed in person.

Having completed the initial phase of my project over the summer, I have since devoted my efforts to funding the final stages of research during an extended research trip to Jerusalem in the late Spring/early Summer of 2017. My brief visit to Jerusalem last summer impressed upon me the importance of being close to the manuscripts and to the network of Dead Sea Scrolls scholars in Israel. I have successfully applied for a research scholarship, which is offered by the Orion Center at the Hebrew University. This Center is part of the Institute of Jewish Studies and is dedicated to fostering scholarship on the Dead Sea Scrolls and its intersections with Jewish history and religion in the Second Temple period. The Orion Center Research Scholarship is intended to support a specific project relating to the Scrolls, which is to be carried out in Jerusalem. I proposed my larger thesis project, of which my work on the problem of fragments 10 + 34 + 42 is a fundamental first step. I intend to carry out the final stage of my project while in Jerusalem, after which I will begin to bring the project to a close by writing, visualizing, and disseminating the results.

In the next post, I will summarize some of the reasons that scholars have regarded the placement of frgs. 10 + 34 + 42 in col. 7 to be problematic.

[1]          Hartmut Stegeman and Eileen Schuller, DJD 40.

[2]          Elisha Qimron, The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One, (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010), 66.

Works Cited

Qimron, Elisha. The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010.

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

The Puzzling Case of 1QHodayota Fragment 10 — The Research Problem (Part 2)

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

In my last post, I described two kinds of reconstructions that are relevant to my research problem: reconstructions of manuscripts and reconstructions of text. A manuscript reconstruction is an arrangement of fragments in the order that they are hypothesized to have stood in the manuscript before it was damaged, whereas a textual reconstruction is a proposal of a section of text where the written lines of a manuscript have decayed or have become illegible. Textual reconstructions may be made on the basis of text that is found in other manuscripts containing the same work, on the basis of similar phrases found in other works, or on the basis of what the scholar is willing to extrapolate. When there is parallel text in another copy that can be used as a guide, textual reconstructions are used to justify the placement of fragments. In other cases, where there are no other manuscripts containing parallel text, fragments are placed by identifying material joins where the edges of fragments match neatly or by placing fragments by their shapes and how they match repeating patterns of damage in the scroll. In this latter case, any subsequent textual reconstructions are contingent upon the accuracy of the scholar’s reconstruction of the manuscript, which ultimately cannot be verified. In other words, where there is no parallel text available, a textual reconstruction is only as sound as the manuscript reconstruction.

Stegemann’s reconstruction of column 7 of 1QHodayota is complex because the fragments are placed using different kinds of evidence: some fragments are placed on the basis of a material joins or textual parallels, while others are placed solely on the basis of shape. This blog post will explain how Stegemann reconstructed 1QHa col. 7 and his reasoning for placing each fragment. Unfortunately, I cannot display copyrighted images of col. 7 itself, but a contour drawing of the column is sufficient to show where Stegemann placed these fragments in the column.

1QHodayota col. 7 DiagramUndisputed Aspects of Stegemann’s Reconstruction of Column 7

Stegemann’s col. 7 is composed of several fragments of various sizes, most of which are undisputed. Much of the surviving material is a large fragment extending from the left edge of column 6 to the right edge of col. 8. Two other large pieces from cols. 6 and 8 also contain text from the right and left edges, respectively, of the writing block of col. 7. Other smaller fragments have been added to these large pieces of the manuscript. At the bottom-right of the column, frg. 32 has been placed without any textual parallel because its top and right edges neatly match the manuscript’s edges; thus, we have a material join. Similarly, SHR 4276 was added by Émile Puech on the basis of another convincing material join.[1]

Disputed Aspects of Stegemann’s Reconstruction of Column 7

The fragment placements at the bottom of the column are uncontested; however, the placements of frgs. 10, 34, and 42 are more tenuous. Unlike frg. 32 and SHR 4276, these fragments cannot be physically joined to the rest of the column nor is there a helpful textual parallel that ties them to this location. Stegemann placed frg. 10 in the middle of the upper half of the column because he expected there to be a piece of manuscript roughly that size in that location in light of the contours of the damaged remains of the upper parts of cols. 5–6. Stegemann considered the case for placing frg. 10 to be strong enough that it could, “be proposed with some confidence,” despite the lack of a material join.[2]

The Textual Parallel in 4QHodayota

4QHa contains the only overlapping text for frg. 10, but it does not yield any evidence that allows us to link frg. 10 to any part of col. 7. Although 4QHa allows us to place frgs. 34 and 42 just to the left of frg. 10, it does not shed light on where this cluster of fragments should be placed in the manuscript. Another possibility is that the fragments come from cols. 1–3, for which we have only a handful of small, tentatively placed fragments. These columns are the only other part of the scroll that could accommodate such a large cluster of fragments. They could not fall anywhere in the latter columns of the scroll because a second scribe began copying midway through col. 19, and the handwriting on frgs. 10, 34, and 42 belongs to the first scribe. In sum, the cluster of fragments constituted by frgs. 10, 34, and 42 has no material join or textual links to col. 7, and it is only placed there on the hypothesis that it completes a pattern of damage that this scroll sustained while rolled.

Stegemann’s Textual Reconstruction of Line 21

Stegemann was confident enough in the placement of the frg. 10 cluster to reconstruct part of the text between the right edge of col. 7 and the right edge of frg. 10 on line 21 of the reconstructed column. In the rest of his reconstruction of 1QHa, Stegemann was reluctant to reconstruct letters in lacunae unless he had a convincing case, so we can infer that he was confident in his reconstruction.

He reconstructs the following:

ב֯ר֯ו[ך אתה אל הרחמים ב]ש֯י֯ר מזמור למ֯ש[כיל]°°°[          ]ד֯ רנה

  1. Bless[ed are you, God of compassion, with a ]song, a psalm for the Ins[tructor] °°°[…]d glad cry […]

Brackets enclose the part of the text that Stegemann is reconstructing, and circlets are placeholders that denote traces of letters that are too faded or damaged to read.

In another publication, he claims that “[t]his [reconstruction] would fit the gap perfectly,” though he also allows for the possibility that another similar “blessed are you” formula may have been used.[3] But does this textual reconstruction fit in the space between the fragments? And does it create a text that has precedence in other Dead Sea Scrolls compositions? Moreover, there is also the larger question of whether the placement of frg. 10 in col. 7 solely on the basis of its shape is warranted. If frg. 10 is incorrectly placed, then Stegemann’s textual reconstruction of line 21 is almost certainly inaccurate.

In the next post, I will discuss some of the reasons that scholars have regarded the placement of frg. 10 in col. 7 to be problematic, and why Stegemann’s textual reconstruction is almost certainly not possible on the basis of insights drawn from my project at the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship.

[1]. Émile Puech, “Un hymne Essénien en partie retrouvé et les béatitudes,” RevQ 13 (1988): 59–88, 62; pl. III, no. 2.

[2]. Hartmut Stegeman and Eileen Schuller, DJD 40, 99.

[3]. Hartmut Stegemann, “Methods for the Reconstruction of Scrolls from Scattered Fragments,” in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin, ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman, JSPSup 8 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1990), 189–220, 197.

Works Cited

Puech, Émile. “Un hymne Essénien en partie retrouvé et les béatitudes.” RevQ 13 (1988): 59–88.

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Hartmut Stegemann. “Methods for the Reconstruction of Scrolls from Scattered Fragments.” Pages 189–220 in Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls: The New York University Conference in Memory of Yigael Yadin. Edited by Lawrence H. Schiffman. JSPSup 8. Sheffield: JSOT, 1990.

The Puzzling Case of 1QHodayota Fragment 10 — The Research Problem (Part 1)

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

In my last post, I introduced my Sherman Centre project, which is examining the placement of fragment 10 in the Dead Sea scroll, 1QHodayota, a manuscript from c. 30–1 BCE that contains a collection of previously unknown psalms called the Thanksgiving Hymns. Over the next several posts, I am going to describe my research problem in greater detail, highlighting why the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 is so uncertain. This entry discusses two kinds of reconstructions that are important concepts for understanding this research problem: 1) reconstructions of entire manuscripts, and 2) reconstructions of the text between fragments of a manuscript.

1) Reconstructions of Manuscripts

Almost every Dead Sea scroll has sustained enough damage that it has broken into pieces, so a significant proportion of the first fifty years of scrolls scholarship was dedicated to putting these pieces back together in order that they could be published in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert Series by Oxford University Press. These attempts to arrange the fragments in their original places in the scroll are called manuscript reconstructions. The fragments in such a reconstruction are placed on the basis of other copies of the same text, material joins between fragments, or the regularly appearing contours of damage sustained while the scroll was in a cave for two millennia.

Stegemann reconstructed 1QHa in his dissertation in the early-1960s, and he continued to refine his proposal for the rest of his career.[1] Stegemann’s reconstruction was edited and published posthumously in 2009 by Eileen Schuller, currently a professor at McMaster University and my dissertation supervisor.[2] Before Stegemann’s unexpected death, they had arranged to work together to publish his reconstruction as one of the final volumes in the Discoveries in the Judaean Desert series, the official publication series of the Dead Sea scrolls. Schuller had published six other manuscripts found in a nearby cave that contained the same psalms, so she was uniquely qualified to bring Stegemann’s work to publication.[3] Most aspects of Stegemann’s reconstruction were well received; however, the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 is still debated.[4]

2) Textual Reconstructions

Almost every Dead Sea scroll manuscript has lines of text that processes of decomposition have interrupted with large gaps, and scholars sometimes make educated guesses about which words might have been lost. These proposals for the missing sections of manuscripts are referred to as textual reconstructions. In some cases, scholars can supply text by using other manuscripts containing the same composition. In other cases, where there is not a manuscript containing a parallel text, scholars may propose a reconstruction of what they suppose to have existed in the gap based on the context of the passage. These suggestions are usually made on the basis of formal similarities or standard phrases found in other compositions. For example, if a Dead Sea scroll is loosely alluding to a passage from the book of Isaiah, and there is a gap between fragments, a scholar may offer a suggestion for the missing text using words from the same part of Isaiah that fit into the space. In Dead Sea scrolls scholarship, it is commonly held that any reconstruction proposed without the aid of a parallel text from another manuscript is very tentative and provisional. In fact, even those reconstructions made with the benefit of a parallel are subject to debate.

As we will see in the following posts, the problem created by Stegemann’s placement of fragment 10 arises out of both his approach to manuscript reconstruction in columns 5–8 and his proposal of several words for the gap between column 7 and fragment 10—a textual reconstruction. In the next post, I will discuss why the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 on the basis of its shape is problematic. In subsequent posts, I will explain why many of the very distinctive characteristics of this fragment seem out of place in Stegemann’s reconstruction.

[1]. Hartmut Stegemann, “Rekonstruktion der Hodajot: Ursprüngliche Gestalt und kritisch bearbeiteter Text der Hymnenrolle aus Höhle 1 von Qumran,” (PhD diss., University of Heidelberg, 1963).

[2]. Hartmut Stegemann and Eileen Schuller Qumran Cave 1.III:1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota–f DJD XL (Oxford: Clarendon, 2009).

[3]. Eileen M. Schuller, “Hodayot” in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts, Part 2 (eds. E. Chazon et al.; DJD 29; Oxford: Clarendon, 1999)

[4]. Elisha Qimron, The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One, Between Bible and Mishnah (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010), 66.

Works Cited

Qimron, Elisha. The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew Writings, Volume One. Between Bible and Mishnah. Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi Press, 2010.

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Schuller, Eileen. “Hodayot.” Pages 69–254 in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts. Part 2. DJD XXIX. Edited by Esther Chazon et al. Oxford: Clarendon,1999.

Stegemann, Hartmut. “Rekonstruktion der Hodajot: Ursprüngliche Gestalt und kritisch bearbeiteter Text der Hymnenrolle aus Höhle 1 von Qumran.” PhD diss., University of Heidelberg, 1963.

Sherman Centre Project – A New Direction

[Originally published on the blog of the Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship]

As I’ve further developed my dissertation proposal, I’ve altered my Sherman Centre project to better serve the changing demands of my research. Initially, I was looking into comparing the syntax of the texts of two ancient Jewish corpora, the Psalms and the Thanksgiving Hymns (transliterated Hebrew title: Hodayot). The book of Psalms is well known from Jewish and Christian Bibles, but the manuscripts of the Thanksgiving Hymns are relatively recent and less studied. They are collections of distinctive psalms that we’ve only been aware of for almost 70 years, since their discovery among the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947. However, there are some basic questions about the most important manuscript of the Thanksgiving Hymns, 1QHodayota (1QHa), that need to be addressed before sound comparisons with other literary corpora can be made. I am refashioning my former, stand-alone project on syntax into a more integrated and directly relevant series of smaller projects that will allow me to address a key issue in 1QHa—the placement of fragment 10 in column 7 of 1QHa.

When the antiquities dealer Feidi Salahi sold 1QHa to the archaeologist Eleazar Sukenik of the Hebrew University in 1947, it was delivered in two bundles. One included three well preserved but disconnected sheets from the middle of the scroll, while the other was a smashed and twisted mass of decayed fragments from the sheets at the extremities of the scroll. My thesis supervisor, Eileen Schuller, co-published Hartmut Stegemann’s reconstruction of this scroll, originally his 1963 dissertation but only translated into English, edited, and made public in 2009.[1] The reconstruction assumes that repeating patterns of damage can serve as a reliable guide for putting the fragments of the scroll back into order. In the majority of cases this approach to reconstruction has produced good results that were later confirmed by the overlapping texts found in the Cave 4 Thanksgiving Hymns scrolls that Schuller published in 1999.[2]

However, the placement of fragment 10 of 1QHa is difficult in a number of ways. It does not physically touch other fragments in the reconstruction, and its shape is not an obvious fit when compared with the contours of damage preceding and following its proposed place in the scroll. It also creates a superscription that is unique and perplexing in light of other titles and headings in ancient Hebrew texts by combining an in-composition subheading format with a compositional title for a work. In view of the peculiar title it creates and the inconclusive grounds for placing the fragment, it is possible that this fragment has been located in the wrong place in the reconstruction 1QHa.

My dissertation research is on the Community Hymns, the subgroup of Thanksgiving Hymns that includes the title and text created by the placement of fragment 10. Accordingly, I need to look more closely at this fragment placement before I use the text in my study. The objective of my Sherman Centre project is to try various approaches and technologies for testing fragment placements on other possible locations for fragment 10 in the scroll. My top priority is to answer a high-stakes question for my dissertation, but I also want to contribute my evaluation of techniques and method to the broader discussion of manuscript reconstruction in my discipline.

In the next blog posts I will share my progress on testing the placement of this fragment using computer-aided methods—some which are currently being used by scrolls scholars tackling similar challenges, and one that I’m developing specifically for 1QHa. Stay tuned for more!


[1]. Hartmut Stegemann and Eileen Schuller Qumran Cave 1.III:1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota–f DJD XL (Oxford: Clarendon, 2009).

[2]. Eileen M. Schuller, “Hodayot” in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts, Part 2 (eds. E. Chazon et al.; DJD 29; Oxford: Clarendon, 1999).

Works Cited

Schuller, Eileen and Hartmut Stegemann. Qumran Cave 1.III: 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. DJD XL. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Schuller, Eileen. “Hodayot.” Pages 69–254 in Qumran Cave 4.XX: Poetical and Liturgical Texts. Part 2. DJD XXIX. Edited by Esther Chazon et al. Oxford: Clarendon,1999.

Michael Brooks Johnson is a PhD candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at McMaster University. He specializes in early Judaism and the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran in Israel. His research focuses on poetic collections from the scrolls, especially the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot) and how we can better understand them and the communities that read them by examining the compositions’ rhetorical features. He is also interested in how digital scholarship offers new ways to reconstruct ancient manuscripts and study them.