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orion article on DSS codes



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Copyright  1997 Nando.net
Copyright  1997 The Associated Press 

JERUSALEM (July 23, 1997 10:45 p.m. EDT) -- A California scholar said
Wednesday that he has broken
some of the 2,000-year-old codes used by a mysterious Jewish sect that
wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Stephen Pfann, a scroll expert from Cupertino, told a conference of 300
international scholars that several
coded scrolls written by the Essenes contained their basic spiritual
tenets, a record of the moon's cycle, and
even laws regarding mildew.

The Essenes, a celibate sect of men who referred to themselves as the
"Sons of Light," used the coded
scripts to "keep teachings from the Sons of Darkness," Pfann said.

Out of the 800 documents found in 11 caves along the Dead Sea shore 50
years ago, only 10 are in code.

Pfann said the cryptic manuscripts, unlike the rest of the scrolls, date
to the second century B.C., the earliest
period of the sect.

"They played a very important part in the formative years," he said.
"This is divine revelation in progress."

The scrolls, believed to be written between the second century B.C. and
the first century, contain the oldest
known texts of the Old Testament. They include messianic prophecies and
moral teachings that shed light on
the development of Judaism at the time of Jesus and the origins of
Christianity.

Pfann said he had broken two of three codes used -- the codes were based
on symbols relating to the letters
of the Hebrew alphabet -- and was working on a third. His efforts are a
continuation of work begun by
researcher Jozeph Milik at Jerusalem's Rockefeller Museum in 1954.

"Undoubtedly, there is no question that Stephen Pfann caught the codes,"
said Lawrence Schiffman, a
Jewish history expert from New York University.

Among the revelations contained in the coded scrolls are detailed
studies of the phases of the moon during
three solar cycles.

Pfann said the Essenes believed the calendar was a manifestation of God,
concluding that "being on time
was not merely a conventional obligation (but) an absolute necessity, if
one's worship was to be effective and
acceptable to the divine."

Another surprising subject covered in the codes is how to tackle mildew.
The Essenes, who were obsessed
with cleanliness, considered mold found in a house a type of leprosy.

Some conference delegates rejected Pfann's theory that the coded
documents were considered especially
important by the writers.

Schiffman said the Essenes decided at random which documents to code.

By REBECCA PALEY, Associated Press Writer