Wednesday 1 February at 18:00 in Lecture Theatre 1, Appleton Tower
Prof. John Starr (Edinburgh University) on “Sects and Texts: Qumran and the Aramaic-speaking world”
Abstract: Qumran was an archetypal sectarian community. In some caves about eight miles south of Jericho, texts lay undisturbed for around two thousand years until their discovery in 1947. Of the nine hundred or so texts, most are written in Hebrew at a time when this was reserved for scriptural writings, whereas the everyday language of the Jews was Aramaic. Aramaic is first recorded about one thousand years before Qumran, and forms of it are still spoken today. Its use became widespread during the Persian Empire when it was adopted as the official language, and continued long after Qumran east of the Roman Empire before being largely superseded by Arabic. Just over one hundred of the texts found at Qumran are in Aramaic. Though none are thought to have originated at Qumran, doubtless many were copied there and carefully preserved in the caves. In this lecture I will describe how statistical approaches can help classify the Aramaic texts found at Qumran and what the contours of this classification might tell us about the shape of sectarian identities that made up the Qumran community.
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The talk will start at 6:00 p.m. and last about 1 hour. It will be followed by a Q&A session (about half an hour). We will then go to a pub for food and drink with the speaker.
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