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Re: [WSW] Sino-Jewish connection: Dead Sea Scrolls

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: WSW Cc: Indo-Eurasian Research; ANE-2 In Response To: Yuri On: Connections From: Bruce [First, ignoring innuendoes, if Gideon Shelach would like to take
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 5, 2006
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      To: WSW
      Cc: Indo-Eurasian Research; ANE-2
      In Response To: Yuri
      On: Connections
      From: Bruce

      [First, ignoring innuendoes, if Gideon Shelach would like to take part in
      the WSW discussion once again, he is very welcome to do so. Let him drop me
      his current preferred E-mail list, and I will send him an invitation to
      resubscribe].

      Second, and I copy this note to several other lists where a recent newspaper
      article on the Isaiah scroll and/or the supposed Chinese mediaeval
      connection have been mentioned, the newspaper writer seems to have gotten
      several things mixed up. The point on which Victor Mair and I were
      consulted, some years ago, if I recall the case correctly, was whether the
      Chinese character-like marks in the margins of the Isaiah Manuscript
      entrusted for publication to St Mark's Monastery could plausibly be
      construed as, or as derived from, Chinese characters. My answer, and I
      believe also Victor's, was that they could. The manuscript in question is
      the complete or "Great" Isaiah scroll from Qumran Cave 1, in some lists
      coded as 1QIsa(a), published in facsimile in 1950.

      A member of ANE-2 has provided this link to the Isiah scroll. Very long
      download:

      http://www.imj.org.il/shrine_center/Isaiah_Scrolling/index.html

      As far as I know, though there is little contemporary evidence from which to
      work, Hebrew paleographers seem to be satisfied that the Qumran manuscripts
      may be dated to a century or so on either side of Year Zero; one range one
      sees in the secondary literature is 0200/70. These paleographic results have
      been confirmed, if only broadly, by radiocarbon and cognate analysis. The
      new idea raised in the recent article by the same reporter, that the
      manuscripts must be instead "mediaeval," probably has very little going for
      it. In addition to the above, the text history implied by the Qumran
      manuscripts collectively, which seem to contain exemplars of traditions
      underlying both the later Masoretic text and of the Septuagint translation,
      is altogether too convincing, and the date of the Septuagint translation is
      known with sufficient accuracy to anchor things in the period where relevant
      scholarship otherwise seems content to put them.

      One problem of our civilization is that the great public has, among its "hot
      buttons," available to be pushed every few years by some writer, the button
      "Lost Tribes of Israel." I think that we are seeing a reverberation of that
      theme at the present time.

      As for the Qumran scrolls "originating in China," not bloody likely. Again,
      those on the spot seem to be able to distinguish between scrolls written at
      Qumran and those brought from outside. I don't follow Qumran scholarship,
      but from what little does reach me I don't have the sense that their
      conclusions are likely to be overturned in anything like this degree. This
      new notion, based on a supposed Hebrew manuscript supposedly discovered in
      China, is in my opinion being improperly linked to the earlier Qumran
      question. I wasn't consulted about this new notion, and my earlier comment
      on the Isaiah question does not apply to it. Victor can speak for himself on
      his part of the issue.

      The notion, suggested some years ago, that the Qumran Community may have
      spoken Chinese, is equally ridiculous. But rejecting that notion doesn't
      necessarily impugn the identification of the funny marginal marks in the St
      Marks manuscript as Chinese in origin. I will tell you what they remind me
      of. A physician of our acquaintance once got intrigued with the Chinese text
      provided in our book The Original Analects for the first 5 of the 16 genuine
      sayings of Confucius. He decided to teach himself Chinese by copying some of
      those characters, and proudly showed us the result. Of course he didn't know
      how to move the pen, and all of the rest of the calligraphic arcana. The
      characters he produced were at about the same distance from their immediate
      model as the Isaiah marks may be construed to be from theirs (which was
      probably written on a beer-soaked cocktail napkin in some third-rate ill-lit
      caravan city tavern). That is, they are plausible as outsider copyings of a
      character or so by people with no idea of how you make marks in that
      language.

      Given the chronological locus of Qumran within Silk Route history, and the
      geographical traversal of the Palestine area by trade routes aiming at the
      Eastern Mediterranean ports, it seems to me not difficult to imagine a
      scenario for an after-beer contact which might have resulted in this degree
      of approximation to this tiny portion of the lexicon. The cabalistic appeal
      of Chinese characters, which seems to be very durable, would not impossibly
      accomplish the rest.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Yitzhak Sapir
      ... Hello, Jim Davila on his blog has written quite a bit about this particular newspaper author, in 2004: http://tinyurl.com/yeqgk3 in 2005:
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 7, 2006
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        On 11/6/06, E Bruce Brooks wrote:

        > Second, and I copy this note to several other lists where a recent newspaper
        > article on the Isaiah scroll and/or the supposed Chinese mediaeval
        > connection have been mentioned, the newspaper writer seems to have gotten
        > several things mixed up. The point on which Victor Mair and I were
        > consulted, some years ago, if I recall the case correctly, was whether the
        > Chinese character-like marks in the margins of the Isaiah Manuscript
        > entrusted for publication to St Mark's Monastery could plausibly be
        > construed as, or as derived from, Chinese characters. My answer, and I
        > believe also Victor's, was that they could. The manuscript in question is
        > the complete or "Great" Isaiah scroll from Qumran Cave 1, in some lists
        > coded as 1QIsa(a), published in facsimile in 1950.

        Hello,

        Jim Davila on his blog has written quite a bit about this particular newspaper
        author,
        in 2004: http://tinyurl.com/yeqgk3
        in 2005: http://tinyurl.com/yleb6r
        and this year: http://tinyurl.com/yzju2a http://tinyurl.com/ya6nnh

        He has responded to the article you seem to refer to here:
        http://tinyurl.com/yykz44

        On other occasions, he brought comments by people quoted by
        Mr. Altman -
        Jim VanderKam: http://tinyurl.com/yj7dx8
        and Eric Heen: http://tinyurl.com/ykz5aq

        He also commented on an article of Altman related to the Talmud:
        http://tinyurl.com/stryr

        And he links to an article by Jay Treat on Chinese scribal marks
        in the Dead Sea Scrolls:
        http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/dss/marks/review.html

        It seems you are to be added to the growing list of scholars who
        have been approached and then misquoted or misrepresented by
        Mr. Altman.

        Yitzhak Sapir
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: ANE-2 In Response To: Yitzhak Sapir On: Neil Altman From: Bruce Thanks to Yitzhak for the background on Altman; it adds much to my own more vague but
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 7, 2006
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          To: ANE-2
          In Response To: Yitzhak Sapir
          On: Neil Altman
          From: Bruce

          Thanks to Yitzhak for the background on Altman; it adds much to my own more
          vague but consistent perception. In the interest of fairness, however, I
          should say that I was not incorrectly quoted by Altman years ago on the
          Isaiah Scroll issue (he has not consulted me about his current theory). It
          was and is my opinion that certain of the complex marginal marks in that
          scroll could conceivably be inexpert and possibly third-hand renderings or
          impressions of Chinese characters. That possibility remains, to me,
          possible, not less so in context of other data, such as the apparent
          occurrence, in the Mediterranean world in that same period, of bits and
          scraps of what look like Eastern lore wisdom, and whose occurrence (then and
          not earlier) seems to me at lest thinkable as an artifact of the high-volume
          silk trade then in progress between Rome and China, with entrepots not only
          at Bactria, as in the time of Herodotus, but also apparently now in
          Babylonia or vicinity. That possibility is not negated by demonstrating (as
          Jay Treat does, or as anyone readily can) that these inexpert versions, if
          that is what they are, differ calligraphically from expert versions.

          What is fraudulent to me in Altman's latest is his attempt to link this old
          situation, whatever the facts about it may be, with mediaeval Chinese Jewish
          data. Again, there is nothing fake about the fact that there were Jewish
          (and Nestorian) communities in Tang China; that is well known. It is the
          combination here urged that seems to me unsound. But enough for Altman, and
          now I have a question.

          Yitzhak gives a link to the article by Treat, summarizing conclusions of
          Tov, on the Isaiah marginalia. That article also surfaced in discussion on
          another E-list. I have no great stake in this either way, but I am curious
          to know if anyone on this list can supply what seems to me to be a missing
          point in Tov's suggestion that the Isaiah marginal marks in question are
          better construed as composites of single Hebrew letters (some of them
          written atypically for the purpose) and shapes such as a triangle.

          No doubt those shapes (or almost any others) might be seen as composites of
          Hebrew letters, but my question is, Why, when single-letter Hebrew sense
          markers also existed, would these composites have been framed, and once
          framed, what was their special meaning, to the scribe or his intended
          readers? Are they anagrams, acrostics, emphatics, arcane allusions, or what?
          Tov seems to stop at the point of showing the graphic possibility, which (if
          we toss in a triangle or two) may be conceded. But what was the semantic or
          symbolic purpose?

          Any thoughts, or literature reports, from list members knowledgeable about
          the situation will be most welcome. I get asked about these things from time
          to time, but cannot myself imaginably keep current with the relevant
          scholarship.

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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