Leaving No Scroll Unturned: a Study of Opisthographic Practices in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Texts Collectioning in the Ancient World


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The Dead Sea Scrolls contain the oldest exemplars of the Hebrew Bible and many other previously unknown texts that have fundamentally altered our view of ancient Judaism and early Christianity. One of the recent challenges scholarship is faced with is how we should conceptualise the textual community behind the Dead Sea Scrolls and in which ways it did engage with these manuscripts. In other words: how were these texts actually used?
The present project aims to approach this question from a new direction by exploring a specific type of manuscript: opisthographs – scrolls that contain text on both the front and back side. This dissertation shows that these opisthographs could be used to create collections: two or three different texts were brought together on a single manuscript in order to be read and studied collectively. These opisthographs preserve intriguing combinations of texts: compositions that represent different socio-religious ideas were demonstrably read next to each other. One opisthograph has been selected as the focal point of a specific case-study. It concerns a papyrus consisting of fragments of different prayer texts that I have dated to the first century BCE. This specific opisthograph seems to have been used as a liturgical collection; marginal signs indicate the start of a new section. Comparative research of the Herculaneum papyri show that also within this corpus opisthographs were used to create collections. This shows that scribes from different regions of the Mediterranean world developed similar, dynamic approaches to engage with their texts.
Originele taal-2English
KwalificatieDoctor of Philosophy
Toekennende instantie
  • Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • Popovic, Mladen, Supervisor
  • Tigchelaar, Eibert, Supervisor
Datum van toekenning16-jun.-2022
Plaats van publicatie[Groningen]
StatusPublished - 2022

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