About this Event
Resident Fellow Speaker Series: Molly Zahn
"The Unfulfilled Past as Utopian Vision: The Dead Sea Temple Scroll in Its Early Jewish Context"
This is a hybrid event.
Molly Zahn is working on a groundbreaking commentary on the Temple Scroll, the longest and arguably one of the most important of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of nearly one thousand ancient Jewish manuscripts dating from roughly 250 BCE – 70 CE. Zahn guides readers through the Temple Scroll’s overlooked utopian vision, which is rooted in a masquerade as a much older text. The Temple Scroll presents itself as the very words of God—as ancient divine speech from Mt. Sinai, the mountain of revelation in Jewish tradition. Across 66 columns of text, the divine voice of the Temple Scroll commands in intricate detail the construction of a magnificent temple complex (hence the name), and supplements these building instructions with a variety of prescriptions pertaining to the ritual use of the temple complex and to the everyday lives of the Israelites who dwell around it. Although the Temple Scroll presents itself as primary, original revelation from the time of Moses, it is in fact the product of a much later period (likely the 2nd century BCE) and is heavily dependent upon textual traditions familiar from the Hebrew Bible, especially Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (all of which were likely composed between roughly 600–400 BCE). In other words, the Temple Scroll is a highly interpretive work, chronologically secondary to other prominent sacred texts, but its divine voice and Sinaitic setting deny and obscure this “belatedness.” In this gap between the scroll’s self-presentation and the reality of its composition lie both Zahn’s particular interest in this text and its significance for the humanities more broadly.