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Multiplicity of Scribal Hands

After my undergrad DSS class the other day, one of the senior
associates, Al Perlstein, and I were thinking out loud about possible
ways to explain the multiplicity of "scribal hands" represented in the
DSS. It occurred to us that if there were a community with a time-bound
rite of passage for its members (whether as part of a training period,
or connected with entry to a particular "office" in the community, for
example) that involved learning/displaying the ability to copy the
respected literature of the group (as a "one-time" exercise, more or
less), that might be able to account for the paleographical evidence,
given a sufficient length of time for the existence of the community.
Thus we would no longer be concerned with particular "professional
scribes" who repeat their labors on work after work, but would have
individual members who prove themselves and at the same time help
preserve the community heritage as part of their responsibility at a
particular time.

Probably, as with most such ideas, someone has already developed this
somewhere. Bibliographical references would be appreciated. But even
more so, references from the DSS themselves that could be taken as
relevant to such an explanation are most welcome. We noted that although
Josephus' description of Essene probationary practices mentioned
"preserving" (Loeb; SUNTHRHSEIN) the books of the group (along with the
names of the angels; War 2.[7.]142) -- which we take to be, at least, an
example of a type of community that shares some features with the DSS
"sectarian" rules -- there seemed to be no such clear references to such
a practice in the preserved portions of the DSS themselves.

We also look forward to any further DNA testing of the leather
materials, which might help determine the extent to which homogeneity or
continuity in manufacture and/or acquisition of said materials obtained.
And perhaps even more so, the further application of tests on the
various inks involved in the writing process (can they be dated with
current technology?) -- or on any inkwell stains. Perhaps, from the
combination of such pieces of evidence, a more convincing explanation
of the perplexing situation will emerge.  

Bob Kraft, UPenn