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.

Some Reflections on the Use of TopHat, the “Comprehensive Teaching Platform,” in a Religious Studies Tutorial


I used the platform TopHat during my tutorial for 1B06 – “What on Earth Is Religion?,” a two-term course offered by McMaster University’s Department of Black top-hatReligious Studies. TopHat is a “comprehensive teaching platform” that helps instructors to make the classroom more interactive with a suite of integrated digital tools. The course instructor, Philippa Carter, gave this platform a trial run in the main lecture, and I decided to do the same in my tutorial of forty students so I could learn more about it and the advantages and disadvantages of using technology in the classroom. Now that the course is complete and the grades are submitted, I wanted to reflect on what the platform did and didn’t do, and how it informed my teaching philosophy and my approach to digital pedagogy.



Concern: Is it really comprehensive?

When I began using TopHat, my biggest question was just what a “comprehensive teaching platform” is. The claim to be comprehensive sets the bar very high. Does this platform really cover all exigencies of the classroom? After exploring TopHat, it was apparent that it is really a complement of tools that facilitates certain aspects of classroom administration and communication. The tasks that I perform in an introductory religious studies tutorial are not highly technical or demanding, but I was only able perform a handful of them using TopHat  with limited success. However, I ultimately had to rely on other platforms for essential classroom tasks. For example, I could not substitute or integrate TopHat with our course management system, Avenue to Learn, to record marks, and I had to use platforms such as PowerPoint and Prezi to present content. Yet, despite TopHat’s limitations, I was able to use it for taking attendance, posing questions to my tutorial members, and facilitating group work both in and out of the classroom.


Initially I was very happy with the attendance function, which allows students to indicate that they are present by texting a code to a TopHat phone number or by entering the code on the TopHat app or website using a computer, tablet, or other wifi-capable device. Then that data could be exported into a comma separated values file (.csv) for importing into Excel. I regularly exported the attendance data because several of my students did not purchase a subscription to TopHat, so I had to enter their marks manually. I appreciated this tool because I could record attendance data without the time-consuming process of taking a roll-call or without the hassle of passing around a sheet of paper and collating the data after each tutorial.

However, after the first term I stopped using this function. It became apparent that students would text the code to friends who were skipping tutorials so that they could log their attendance dishonestly, even though the window for logging attendance was short—usually a couple minutes. Additionally, if students came in late, they had to be manually logged, which made it somewhat less convenient than directing late students to a sign-in sheet. There were also several occasions where students would contest their absences by claiming technical difficulties—claims that are difficult to verify. As a result, I was not getting accurate attendance data for each class. The attendance was only as good as the student’s honesty, memory, and wi-fi connection.

I also noticed that I was not connecting with the students as well as I felt I should. I had taken for granted how important it is to say each student’s name and make eye contact with them—a basic level of engagement that provides a foundation for further interactions, especially with students who are less prone to talk in class or stop in for office hours. So despite the great convenience of the TopHat attendance tool, I took roll-calls for the second half of the course, and, as a result, I had more accurate attendance data and more consistent familiarity with each of my students.


Another feature that I used several times is the “Question” function. This feature enabled me to pose a question to the tutorial, which they could answer on their devices. There are several question formats from which to choose, including word answer, matching, multiple choice, among others. I only used word answers because I was not testing my student’s knowledge—I was trying to facilitate discussion. The questions can be assigned points for correct answers, which are tabulated in the TopHat gradebook; however, I preferred to use questions as a low-stakes means of having students to interact with course topics, so no points were assigned. The students’ answers can be opened for the entire class, so that everyone’s answer is visible to their classmates on their devices and on the projector display in the classroom. After introducing the topic, I would pose a question, have the tutorial break into small groups to discuss and respond, and then we would come back together to discuss the results. At first I was concerned that students would find the questions function to be too gimmicky, but it was well received. It took the place of having groups write responses on the blackboard, only without digging around for extra pieces of chalk or deciphering poor handwriting scrawled on dirty chalkboards. TopHat made this familiar approach to discussing topics more streamlined and easier to document.


A third feature that I used was the “discussions” function. This feature was useful for managing group work throughout the year. My tutorial had a group project on which they collaborated throughout both terms of the course that was broken into two parts: a proposal and the final project. Apart from the initial proposal, there were no other built-in opportunities for feedback, so I used the discussion function to prompt the groups for details about their projects and their progress throughout both terms. I made these responses visible only to myself, and left the discussions open throughout the week so that groups could work on them together outside of the tutorial. These discussions provided a valuable set of a data to draw upon when I calculated the final participation grades—I had both quantitative attendance data and qualitative records of what each of the tutorial members did in their groups.


TopHat is a useful suite of tools that was mostly helpful for engaging students in my tutorial and for facilitating group work outside of the classroom. Although the attendance feature saves time, it is not foolproof, and unscrupulous students can easily take advantage of the system. While TopHat is a valuable set of tools, it is far from comprehensive, and I had to supplement it with other platforms, such as PowerPoint and Avenue to Learn (our course management system). The most problematic aspect of TopHat is that it did not integrate into Avenue, which is where attendance marks and participation marks ultimately needed to be recorded. I could collect data on the completion of certain activities by each student and their attendance, but there was no simple way to transpose them into another system. In sum, there are some promising aspects of TopHat that I would like to see integrated into a more comprehensive course management system, but as a stand-alone platform, it was primarily useful for eliciting and recording student feedback.

As regards digital pedagogy, my experience with TopHat is an example of how digital tools are only good insofar as they can work in tandem with others. While there were many innovative features of TopHat that I did not describe in this review, they could not be easily implemented without a way to integrate them into the course management system. Furthermore, the attendance feature is an example of how technology in the classroom can save time, but at the cost of creating distance between the instructor and the students. In contrast, the questions and discussions functions are examples of how digital tools can make classroom participation easier and provide instructors with a record of what happened in the classroom. In other words, digital tools like TopHat have the potential both to create barriers and to break them down. It falls upon the instructor to recognize how digital tools are playing out in their learning environment and to set aside those that do not make a substantial contribution.

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.


Upcoming Events

December 12, 2019 — “Farewell to Teacher Hymns and Community Hymns: A Generic Reassessment of the Hodayot,” Jonas C. Greenfield Scholars’ Seminar, Orion Center for the Study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature.
12:30 to 2:00 PM; Room 2001, the Rabin World Center of Jewish Studies

Past Events

November 26, 2019 — “David’s Prayer and the Maskil’s Psalm: Some Observations on a Common Rhetorical Strategy in 1 Chr 29:10–20 and 1QHa 5:12–6:33,” Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature.
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM; Room: 30C (Upper Level East) – Convention Center

November 18, 2018 — “You Will Say on That Day, ‘I Thank You, O Lord,’ (Isa 12:1): Hodayot Thanksgiving Psalms as Realizations of Isaiah’s Eschatological Thanksgiving (Isa 12:1-6),” Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Denver, CO.

August 1, 2018 — “Visualizing Material Reconstructions in Three Dimensions: Some Insights on the Placement of 1QM Frg. 9 from a Scrollable Digital Model,” International Society of Biblical Literature Meeting, Helsinki, Finland.

May 27, 2018 — “Wrapping Up the War Scroll: Some Reflections on Digitally Rolling Material Reconstructions to Aid in Fragment Placements,” Annual Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, Regina, SK, Canada.

May 18, 2018 — (Graduate Organizing Committee) System/Système D: Improvising Digital Scholarship, Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship Graduate Colloquium, Hamilton, ON, Canada.

April 26, 2018 — “A Visualization for Reconstructions of Rolled Manuscripts: A Scrollable Model of the War Scroll,” Sherman Centre for Digital Scholarship Graduate Colloquium, Hamilton, ON, Canada.

April 11, 2018 — (Organizer) The Scrollery Colloquium,  McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada.


Sarianna Metso: “Altar at Qumran? Yom Kippur in the Rule Texts.”

Daniel Machiela: “The Compositional Setting and Implied Audience of Some Aramaic Texts from Qumran: A Working Hypothesis.”

January 25, 2018 — “Wrapping Up the War Scroll: A Scrolling Three-Dimensional Model of the War Scroll,” Albright Institute Workshop, Jerusalem.

January-February, 2018 — George A. Barton Fellowship, Albright Institute for Archaeological Research

November 20, 2017 — “The New Edition of DSS F.Instruction1: A Case Study on Professional Ethics and SBL Policy,” in Forgery and Writing Provenance in Writing Histories of Ancient Israel and Judah, Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, Boston, MA.2017.11.20 - New Edition of DSS F.Instruction.png

April 19–June 22, 2017 — Research Trip to Jerusalem and Göttingen

June 6, 2017 — “Rolling back Assumptions about 1QHodayota: Scrolling, Folding, and Wadding Reconstructions in Blender,” University of Haifa.2017.06.04 - Rolling back assumptions Haifa copy.001.png

May 15, 2017 – Presentation at the Orion Center Discussion Hour

May 25–June 22, 2017 — Research at the École Biblique

April 6, 2017 – Scrollery Colloquium of McMaster University and the University of Toronto: “One Text or Three: A Proposal for a Unified Reading of 1QS-1QSa-1QSb”

March 29, 2017 — (co-organized with Miriam DeCock) McMaster Ancient Judaism and Ancient Christianity Seminar (MAJACS): Papers by John VanMaaren and Andrew Knight-Messenger. Respondents: Stephen Westerholm and Andrew Perrin.

January 24, 2017 — (co-organized with Miriam DeCock) McMaster Ancient Judaism and Ancient Christianity Seminar (MAJACS) Panel: Review of Matthew Thiessen’s Paul and the Gentile Problem (Oxford, 2016).

Paul and the Gentile Problem FB.001.png

November 21, 2016 — SBL Paper: “Divinely Imposed Silence in the Thanksgiving Hymns (Hodayot) from Qumran: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Speechlessness of the Psalmist and His Opponents,” in the joint session of the program units, Speech and Talk in the Ancient Mediterranean World and Sense and Culture in the Biblical World.

November 20, 2016 — SBL Panel: “A Presentation of the Unprovenanced Fragment, DSS F.Instruction1” in the panel, “Teaching Biblical Studies in an Undergraduate Liberal Arts Context.”

July 9th–July 14th, 2016 — Research stay at the École biblique et archaeologique française de Jérusalem

June 18th-July 9th, 2016 — Volunteering at Archaeological Dig at Ashkelon

May 29th, 2016 — Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Paper, 3:45–4:15p (location TBA):

Testing Stegemann

“Testing Stegemann’s Placement of Fragment 10 in the Reconstruction of 1QHodayota: Two Digital Approaches” at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies Annual Meeting, Calgary, AB, 2016.


In Hartmut Stegemann’s reconstruction of 1QHodayota, the largest of the Thanksgiving Hymns manuscripts, he arranged the fragments and damaged columns in their original locations in the manuscript on the assumption that a roll of leather will sustain damage in repeated patterns when unrolled. Overall Stegemann’s reconstruction has been well received, but the placement of fragment 10 is debated for physical, orthographic, and formal reasons. This paper examines the placement of frg. 10 using two recent digital techniques for testing fragment placements by judging the space for parallel textual witnesses to fit in the lacunae.

May 14th, 2016 — Poster for the 50th Anniversary of Religious Studies at McMaster

March 30th, 2016 — MAJACS Presentation: “Approaching Manuscripts Digitally: A Retrospect on a Year of Applying Digital Scholarship to a Research Problem in 1QHodayota


As part of:

MAJACS Invite Mar 2016

March 17th, 2016 — 12–1pm: Sherman Centre Colloquium — “The puzzling case of fragment 10 in the Thanksgiving Hymns manuscript 1QHodayota: A case study about two computer-aided approaches for evaluating the placement of fragments in Dead Sea scrolls reconstructions”

The Puzzling Case

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.