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Astronomy and Calendars at Qumran in their Ancient Context


Rather than being an isolated, primitive body of knowledge the Jewish calendar tradition of 364 days constituted an integral part of the astronomical science of the ancient world. This tradition—attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Pseudepigrapha—stands out as a coherent, novel synthesis, representing the Jewish authors’ apocalyptic worldview. The calendar is studied here both “from within”—analyzing its textual manifestations —and “from without”—via a comparison with ancient Mesopotamian astronomy. This analysis reveals that the calendrical realm constituted a significant case of inter-cultural borrowing, pertinent to similar such cases in ancient literature. Special attention is given to the “Book of Astronomy” (1 Enoch 72-82) and a variety of calendrical and liturgical texts from Qumran.

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Jonathan Ben-Dov, Ph.D (2005), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is a Lecturer in Biblical Studies and Second Temple Literature at the University of Haifa. He has co-authored the edition of calendrical texts in the series Discoveries in the Judaean Desert (Oxford University Press, 2001), and published a series of articles in the field.
Jonathan Ben-Dov has won the 2010 Michael Bruno Memorial Award.
The Michael Bruno Memorial Awards are granted each year to Israeli scholars and scientists of truly exceptional promise, whose achievements to date suggest future breakthroughs in their respective fields. Candidates must not yet have passed the age of fifty.

All those interested in Qumran and the Pseudepigrapha as well as the History of Science and ancient astronomy, the Jewish calendar, and Mesopotamian scholarly literature.
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