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13 May 2018
In Israel, an international scientific symposium on Qumran

The central theme of the symposium was the idea and image of the desert

A four-day symposium was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on the topic "After seventy years of studying the Dead Sea Scrolls:" Prepare a path in the desert, "the website of the symposium says.
Archaeological Park of Qumran. View of the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. © Photo by Pavel Platonov. March 12, 2014
© The Orthodox Pilgrim Center "Russia in Colors" in Jerusalem
More than 60 biblical scholars, cumranologists, historians and archaeologists from universities and research centers of Israel, USA, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, South Africa took part in the work of the scientific forum. Such well-known researchers of the Qumran manuscripts as Emmanuel Tov, Lawrence Schiffman, John Collins, Lauren Stokenbrook, and others spoke with review lectures and plenary lectures.
Qumran caves "Scrolls of the Dead Sea". © Photo by Pavel Platonov. April 29, 2014
© The Orthodox Pilgrim Center "Russia in Colors" in Jerusalem
The central theme of the symposium was the idea and image of the desert, which was especially often used by Hebrew authors in the comprehension of the events of the Exodus from Egypt, travels through the Sinai peninsula before coming to Palestine and the Babylonian exile.
This concept and image and related ideas become important for the Judaism of the Second Temple period, the symposium press release said. In addition, the desert itself as a real geographic place acquires new significance for many Jews during this period, as evidenced in particular by the history of the Qumran community (or communities).
The main subject of the reports and discussions of the Jerusalem symposium was a fragment from Is 40: 3 ("Make a straight / clean the way of the Lord"), which played a huge role in the formation of the ideology of various messianic eschatological groups and movements of early Judaism (II century BC. - 1st century AD).
The first session of the scientific forum was almost entirely devoted to the textological and exegetical problems of Is. 40: 3 in connection with and in the light of the discoveries (especially concerning new ones) in Qumran.
Honored Professor of Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University Emanuel Tov delivered a report "Vox clamantis in deserto: the history of interpretation and distortion of the meaning of Is. 40: 3". In the understanding of this verse, the authors of the Qumran, on the one hand, and the New Testament texts, on the other, have differences. The reason is different semantic divisions in the fragment Is 40: 3. In Qumran, emphasis was placed on "preparing the way for the Lord in the wilderness," and in the Gospels this verse is attached to John the Baptist, which is described as "a voice crying in the wilderness." According to Professor Tov, such divisions and accents are not expressed in the original text of the Book of Isaiah and are the fruit of subsequent reinterpretation.
In the message "Did the fragment Is 40: 3 exclusively as an indication of the desert?", The cumranologist John Kempen (Methodist Higher Theological School, Ohio, USA) questioned the widespread thesis among scholars: citation of Is 40: 3 in the Qumran Community Charter (1QS 8: 13-14) is an indisputable confirmation that for sectarians this fragment has become a kind of divine directive for deserting. The scientist analyzes all the few references in the Qumran scrolls to the word "desert", and shows little interest in the Qumranites in this image. The author of the report believes that rather they focused on the idea of ​​a "way", about which there is much more reasoning in the texts of the community of the Dead Sea than about the "desert".
Dr. Paul Mandel (Shekhterovsky Institute, Jerusalem) in the report "Coming into the desert and walking / staying in it: the importance of biblical metaphors for the authors of the Qumran texts" continued to parse the metaphor of the "way" by filling it with an analysis of the image of "walking" closely related with the metaphor of the "path". The speaker agreed with the thesis about the peripheral nature of the "desert" motif for the Qumranites. His linguistic observations he also supported by factual data: the proximity of the settlement of the Qumranites to Jerusalem, the very probable presence of a large number of their followers, called Essenes, in the capital and other cities of Palestine, and so on.
North-western part of the archaeological park of Qumran. © Photo by Pavel Platonov. March 12, 2014
© The Orthodox Pilgrim Center "Russia in Colors" in Jerusalem

The reports of the second session concerned the biblical motifs of the desert in different versions of the Book of Enoch. Here, in particular, the following reports were presented: "Traditions connected with the image of the desert and Ethiopian book of Enoch", "Flying over the Great Desert: the desert in the cosmology of the Book of Giants" and the texts relevant to it "; "The populated land, seas, deserts: the division of land into habitats in 1 En 77 and medieval sources" One of the sessions of the forum, held in the "Temple of the Book" of the Museum of Israel, was fully devoted to reports on the archeology of Qumran. Scientists, direct participants of the ongoing excavations in the places connected with the community of the Dead Sea spoke at it. In the report "New excavations in the large cave complex Nahal Tzeelim: the place of refuge for the rebels Bar-Kokhba" Uri Davidovich and Roy Porat (Hebrew University in Jerusalem) shared the results of the analysis of archaeological artifacts discovered in 2016 in places that at the end of the 1st centuries became the last refuge for many Jewish families who fled to the Judean desert during the Roman-Jewish war of 66-73. AD
Archaeologist Oretha Gatfeld reported on the resumption of excavations by the staff of the Jewish University in Cave 53, a mile south of Khirbet-Qumran. The report of Professor Marcello Fidanzio (University of Lugano, Switzerland) dealt with the main findings in the Qumran Cave No. 11, preceded by publications about it that are scheduled to begin in mid-2018. First of all, these are almost fifty new small fragments of manuscripts that the scientist assumes can help in more accurately attributing other manuscripts from this cave.
Most of the reports at subsequent sessions were devoted to the theological interpretation of the concept of "desert" in the Qumran texts and other documents of the Second Temple period: "The experience of the persecuted in the desert: Dead Sea scrolls and narrative subjected to oppression"; "The motif of the desert" in the "Copper Scroll" (3Q15) "; "A retelling of the history of events in Sinai: a comparative analysis of" Judaic antiquities "3.83-88"; "The echo of the Babylonian captivity in the Aramaic past: the theme of the desert in the Aramaic texts of Qumran, from Ahikar to Tobit," "Get ready in the desert": practices of cultivating yourself in the Judean desert ", etc. The reports of the final, and motives in the Qumran and New Testament texts. These are the reports "A Woman in the Wilderness and Eagle Wings in Revelation 12: 13-14"; "Between the experience of the desert and heavenly glory: the position of the people of God in the Epistle to the Hebrews compared to how it is represented in 1QSerekh ha-Yaad"; "The way out of the desert: Qumran, Jesus and ritual purity"; "The search for God in lifeless places: prayer and the wilderness in early Judaism and early Christianity."
As part of the symposium, the Museum of Israel held a series of open lectures by famous cumorologists on the theme of a scientific forum.

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