From Sherman Centre Project to Postdoctoral Fellowship

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

I am not writing this blog post from my cubicle in the Sherman Centre but from the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During my 2018–2019 graduate residency, I secured an Azrieli International Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I drew on my work at the Sherman Centre to develop a research proposal for this fellowship. This post will describe the contours of the project that I proposed and highlight how it draws on my previous work on 3D modelling at the Sherman Centre.

Research Question

The big question that I am addressing in my project is how the Thanksgiving Psalms from Qumran fit among the liturgically-oriented texts found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The “Hodayot” or “Thanksgiving Psalms” are a collection of somewhere between twenty and thirty Jewish psalms found in eight fragmentary manuscripts dating from 100–1 BCE. The number is uncertain because only 75% of the largest and best-preserved manuscript (1QHa) has survived and the transitions between psalms are missing in some cases. The scrolls come from Cave 1 (1QHa–b) and Cave 4 (4QHa–f) near the archaeological site of Qumran, just off the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank.1 Hartmut Stegemann’s reconstruction of 1QHa revealed that a number of the psalms toward the beginning and end of the manuscript contain liturgical elements, to the extent that if they are not in themselves liturgical texts, they are oriented toward early Judaism’s emerging liturgical literature. What I describe as “liturgically-oriented texts” include compositions that are intended as scripts for liturgical practices, that describe such practices, or draw upon liturgical language and concepts.2 A number of these liturgically-oriented psalms are arranged in a unique collection in 4QHa.

Of course, liturgy and liturgical practices go well beyond texts and manuscripts.3 Stefan Reif and Judith Newman describe liturgy as a “constellation of practices,” that encompass “the whole gamut of worship in and around the study of sacred texts, the acts of eating and fasting, and of course, benedictions, prayers and amulets.”4 Liturgically-oriented texts found in ancient scrolls are some of the only surviving pieces of material culture that point toward a much larger socio-religious reality of liturgical performances that involved people, places, times, and practices.

Formerly, Jewish liturgy was thought to have developed only in the era of the rabbis as a reaction to the Roman destruction of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, but a number of Dead Sea scrolls including the Hodayot contain key Hebrew texts that attest to the early stages of written liturgical psalms and prayers already in the late Second Temple period. The last seventy years of Scrolls scholarship has only just begun to explore the implications of this new evidence. Esther Chazon, my supervisor for this project, examined some of the liturgical characteristics in the psalms of the Hodayot tradition in several articles beginning in 2010 (Chazon 2010, 2011, 2013). Her work initiated a new phase in Hodayot research on the place of the Hodayot in Second Temple period Jewish liturgical literature. My project will continue to explore what functions the liturgically-oriented psalms played in the arrangements of psalms in 1QHa and 4QHa and how they compare to the deployment of other liturgical texts from the Second Temple period.

3D Modelling and Material Reconstruction

The liturgically-oriented psalms in 1QHa and 4QHa can contribute additional data to this new research area; however, before the manuscripts can be incorporated into the data set, their reconstructions must be re-evaluated to provide a better understanding of the sequence and contents of their liturgically-oriented psalms. My postdoctoral project examines the material reconstructions of two Dead Sea scrolls, 1QHodayota and 4QHodayota, to gain a better understanding of the sequencing of psalms in these manuscripts and where psalms with liturgical elements appear in each collection. I am using the 3D modelling technique that I developed in my Sherman Centre project to examine some of the areas of uncertainty in the reconstructions of 1QHa and 4QHa. My project will not result in a radical reconfiguration of the reconstruction and sequence of psalms in most of the columns, but some columns with uncertain fragment placements need to be reconsidered.

3D modelling scrolls in their rolled, wadded, or folded states can highlight problems in the reconstructions or irregularities in the way a manuscript was rolled or decayed. They can also be used to reverse-engineer poorly documented material reconstructions from the photographic plates in the editions. Reassessing the reconstructions of 1QHa and 4QHa will provide a better material foundation for establishing the sequence of psalms with liturgical features and exploring why they are found in different arrangements in 1QHa and 4QHa. I developed this technique with the research question about the sequencing of liturgically-oriented psalms in the Thanksgiving Psalms scrolls in mind, though I anticipate that I will need to develop it further to visualize some of the more chaotic patterns of damage found in 1QHa.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to develop this project during my final year of residency at the Sherman Centre. The residency has been flexible enough to accommodate every stage of my research over the years, from learning tools and the initial stages of project ideation to charting a post-dissertation research agenda. Although it has been a challenge to develop a project independently of my dissertation, it was well worth the investment of time and effort to have a trajectory prepared for the next stages of my research. Although I will miss working alongside brilliant researchers from other disciplines at the Sherman Centre, I am looking forward to getting acquainted with the Azrieli research fellows. Like the Sherman Centre, the Azrieli foundation privileges interdisciplinary research and communicating it for audiences beyond one’s disciplinary silo. In this respect, I think it will feel a lot like “home.”


1. In Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship, the siglum 1QHa denotes a manuscript that was found in Cave 1 near Qumran containing text from the Hodayot tradition. The superscripted letters indicate separate manuscripts. There are two manuscripts in Cave 1 (1QHa and 1QHb) and six manuscripts in Cave 4 (4QHa, 4QHb, etc). These sigla are determined by modern scholars and were not used in antiquity.

2. The psalms found in 4QHa were first described as “liturgically-oriented” by Eileen Schuller in DJD 29:87.

3. Daniel Falk emphasizes that a liturgy is a performance, not a text. See his discussion in “Liturgical Texts,” in T&T Clark Companion to the Dead Sea Scrolls, eds. George J. Brooke and Charlotte Hempel (London: T&T Clark, 2019), 423–34.

4. Judith Newman, Before the Bible: The Liturgical Body and the Formation of Scriptures in Early Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 8. Newman employs Stefan Reif’s description of liturgy in “Prayer in Early Judaism,” in Prayer from Tobit to Qumran, eds. R. Egger-Wenzel and J. Corley, Deuterocanonical and Cognate Literature Yearbook (Berlin: Gruyter, 2004), 442.

Selected Bibliography

Arnold, Russell C. D. The Social Role of Liturgy in the Religion of the Qumran Community. STDJ 60. Leiden: Brill, 2006.

Chazon, Esther G. “Liturgical Communion with the Angels at Qumran.” Pages 95–105 in Sapiential, Liturgical and Poetical Texts from Qumran. Edited by Daniel K. Falk, Florentino Garcia Martinez, and Eileen M. Schuller. STDJ 35. Leiden: Brill, 2000.

———. “Liturgical Function in the Cave 1 Hodayot Collection.” Pages 135–49 in Qumran Cave 1 Revisited: Texts from Cave 1 Sixty Years after Their Discovery. Proceedings of the Sixth Meeting of the IOQS in Ljubljana. Edited by Daniel K. Falk et al. STDJ 48. Leiden: Brill, 2010.

———. “Shifting Perspectives on Liturgy at Qumran and in Second Temple Judaism.” Pages 513–31 in The Dead Sea Scrolls in Context: Integrating the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Study of Ancient Texts, Languages, and Cultures. Edited by Amin Lange, Emanuel Tov, and Matthias Weigold. VTSup 140. Leiden: Brill, 2011.

———. “Liturgy Before and After the Temple’s Destruction: Change or Continuity.” Pages 371–92 in Was 70 CE A Watershed in Jewish History? – On Jews and Judaism Before and After the Destruction of the Second Temple. Edited by Daniel R. Schwartz and Zeev Weiss. AJEC 78. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

———. “Lowly to Lofty: The Hodayot’s Use of Liturgical Traditions to Shape Sectarian Identity and Religious Experience.” RevQ 26.1 (2013): 3–19.

Falk, Daniel K. “Liturgical Progression and the Experience of Transformation in Prayers From Qumran.” DSD 22.3 (2015): 267–84.

———. “Liturgical Texts.” T&T Clark Companion to the Dead Sea Scrolls 423–34.

———. “Material Aspects of Prayer Manuscripts at Qumran.” Pages 33–88 in Literature or Liturgy? Early Christian Hymns and Prayers in their Literary and Liturgical Context in Antiquity. Edited by Clemens Leonhard and Hermut Löhr. WUNT II. Reihe 363. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.

Jokiranta, Jutta. “The Social Role of Liturgy in the Religion of the Qumran Community.” DSD 16.2 (2009): 275–77.

Langer, Ruth. “New Directions in Understanding Jewish Liturgy.” Pages 147–73 in Early Judaism: New Insights and Scholarship. Edited by Frederick E. Greenspahn. Jewish Studies in the 21st Century. New York: New York University Press, 2018.

Newman, Judith H. Before the Bible: The Liturgical Body and the Formation of Scriptures in Early Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Schuller, Eileen. “Functions of Psalms and Prayers in the Late Second Temple Period.” Pages 5–24 in Functions of Psalms and Prayers in the Late Second Temple Period. Edited by Mika S. Pajunen and Jeremy Penner. BZAW 486. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017.

———. “The Cave 4 Hodayot Manuscripts: A Preliminary Description.” JQR 85.1–2 (1994): 137–50.

———. “427–432. 4QHodayota-e and 4QpapHodayotf.” Pages 69–232 in Qumran Cave 4. XX, Poetical and Liturgical Texts. Part 2. Edited by Esther G. Chazon et al. DJD 29. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.

———. “Some Reflections on the Function and Use of Poetical Texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Pages 173–89 in Liturgical Perspectives: Prayer and Poetry in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium of the Orion Center, 19-23 January, 2000. Edited by Esther G. Chazon, Ruth Clements, and Avital Pinnick. STDJ 48. Leiden: Brill, 2003.

Stegemann, Hartmut. “How to Connect Dead Sea Scroll Fragments.” BRev 4.1 (1988): 1–11.

———. “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 H. Schiffman Lawrence. JSPSup 8/JSOT/ASOR Monograph Series 2. Sheffield: JSOT, 1990.

Stegemann, Hartmut and Eileen M. Schuller. Qumran Cave 1. III, 1QHodayota with Incorporation of 1QHodayotb and 4QHodayota-f. Translated by Carol A. Newsom. DJD 40. Oxford: Clarendon, 2009.

Strugnell, John and Eileen M. Schuller. “Further Hodayot Manuscripts from Qumran.” Pages 51–72 in Antikes Judentum und frühes Christentum: Festschrift für Hartmut Stegemann. Edited by Bernd Kollman. BZNW 97. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1998.