Biblio. ref.: Nash Papyrus

Jack Kilmon jkilmon at
Fri Apr 20 14:29:17 EDT 2001

----- Original Message -----
From: "Penner" <pennerkm at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 5:37 AM
Subject: Re: Biblio. ref.: Nash Papyrus

> Nobody here has mentioned the dates provided by the 1990 accelerator mass
> spectrometry tests listed by VanderKam (_The Dead Sea Scrolls Today_,
> 17-19). Is this because they are not known, or are they not considered
> relevant, accurate, or sufficiently precise for our purposes?

Those studies did not include the Nash Papyrus but they do give us a general
range for some texts of the DSS compared with other texts found at Masada,
Murabba'at, etc. There are often cases where palaeographic dating does not
conform to AMS dating.  Some of the reasons:

Contamination of samples with extrinisic C14, as in the case of the oil used
on DSS texts or the bioplastic coating on the Turin cloth.

Other than contamination effecting AMS dating, the paleography offers a
wider range of variables.
     The scribe preferred an older "traditional" hand
     A particular script (really a cultural and regional thing) had a longer
"lifetime" than surviving exemplars allow
     The text is an exact copy of an older text, script included
     A sequestered community may preserve and use a specific style hand for
many generations
     A later hand..let's say one deemed "Herodian" with more "rounded" style
may have first developed in Hasmonian times and not found favor as a general
            hand for another half century or more.
     One single scribe will have several "hands" resulting in cases where
texts from the same scribe might be dated palaeographically to two different
time periods.

It can get even more complex but sufficient to say that palaeographic dating
is *ONE* tool to be used within a battery of various internal and external
tools to determine the best possible speculation regarding date.

As an my first glimpse at the hand of the Great Isaiah Scroll
shortly after Bill Albright first got the photos...don't ask me the date,
most of you had not been born......I estimated (according to my lessons from

Bill) a  hand of approximately 150 BCE.  Later estimates by the pros placed
it in the 4th century BCE palaeographically. The AMS dating performed about
40 years afterward  gives 202-107 BCE.  What we have here is a text copied
by a scribe in the 2nd century
BCE with the scribe being reverent to the script of the earlier 4th century
BCE exemplar text...IMO.

Paleography, as much as I love it, has to be used within the context of a
battery of parameters involving context, provenance, substrate analysis,

My 0.2 cents


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