Courtesy Yigael Yadin

The Temple Scroll. Written on the thinnest animal skin that Yigael Yadin had ever seen, it never exceeds four thousandths of an inch in thickness. The still 27-foot-long scroll contained at least 66 columns of text. Here we see column 56, the first of four columns that Yadin called the “Statutes of the King,” because they enumerate the rights and duties of the king of Israel. Echoing Deuteronomy 17:14–16, the text reads in part, “He [the king] must not multiply horses for himself, or cause the people to return to Egypt, for war … since I have said to you, you shall never return that way again.” In Deuteronomy, the nearly identical verse reads, “Since the Lord has said to you … ” The change from “the Lord” to “I” in the Temple Scroll was apparently made so that God speaks directly to the people, rather than through Moses.

Found in Cave 11 at Qumran, the Temple Scroll has been understood to be the Torah (law) of the Essene community, the Jewish community that lived in the area of the caves. This was Yadin’s conclusion. But Hartmut Stegemann, author of the accompanying article, disagrees. Only two copies of the Temple Scroll, one a mere fragment, have been discovered among some 800 manuscripts taken from the 11 Qumran caves, while other documents are represented by many copies (Deuteronomy, for example, has 25 copies). This and other clues lead Stegemann to argue that the Temple Scroll was not a specifically Essene composition, but was originally intended as a supplementary, sixth book of the Torah, equivalent to the five books of the Pentateuch, and not sectarian in any way.