c. 150–100 B.C.1

c. 100–50 B.C.2

c. 50–25 B.C.3

Fragments of 15 copies of the Book of Jubilees have been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The earliest dates to approximately 125 B.C. and the latest from the first century A.D. How do scholars date manuscripts 2,000 years old? They examine the shape, stance and form of the letters and compare them to previously dated manuscripts.

To create alphabets for comparison, Frank Moore Cross carefully traced examples of individual letters from infrared photographs of many different manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls.a The later hand for example, from 50–25 B.C., is more uniform in size than the earlier writings. Other details in individual letters enable scholars to date a text. In the highlighted letter tav, the two examples on the first line have a loop at the bottom of the left foot. In the last line, they have a hook. In the middle line they have both.

The fragment of Jubilees shown in the main article was copied by two different scribes. The older script, on the left, corresponds closely to the letter shapes from 150–100 B.C. and 100–50 B.C. The later script, right, on the fragment sewn to the earlier one, corresponds closely to the letter shapes from 50–25 B.C.