Reading, Writing, and Memorizing Together: Reading Culture in Ancient Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls in a Mediterranean Context

In: Dead Sea Discoveries


This article focuses on reading culture as an aspect of the Dead Sea Scrolls textual community in its ancient Mediterranean context. On the basis of comparative evidence, the article approaches reading in ancient Judaism as a multi-dimensional and deeply social activity by taking reading aloud, writing, and memorizing as intertwined practices occurring in group reading events. The evidence discussed, such as from Philo of Alexandria, the first-century ce Theodotus inscription from Jerusalem, and 1QS 6:6–8, reflects certain aspects of reading cultures shared between different Jewish communities in the ancient Mediterranean during the Hellenistic and early Roman periods. In addition, it is argued that features such as scribal marks in manuscripts, evidence such as the writing of excerpts, manuscripts such as 4Q159 and 4Q265, or note-taking in 4Q175 and other such manuscripts should be considered within the context of the ancient procedure of reading by intellectual or scholarly readers. Moreover, the article suggests that the Genesis Apocryphon actually preserves a glimpse of the scrolls’ elite reading culture described in a text from Hellenistic-period Judaea.

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