Bible Review 8:4, August 1992

The Mysterious Copper Scroll

Clues to hidden temple treasure?

By P. Kyle McCarter Jr.

The Copper Scroll (3Q15 or 3QTreasure) is an anomaly in the inventory of scrolls from Qumran. It does not fit readily into any of the categories customarily included when the scrolls are discussed. It is not biblical, it is not literary and it does not contain sectarian doctrine. It is written in a language—a form of Hebrew—that is different from the language of any of the other scrolls. It is written in a script that is not quite like the script of any of the other scrolls. It is made of a material that is different from that of the other scrolls. Most of them are leather, though a few are papyrus, but 3Q15 is a sheet of copper. It is an unusual phenomenon, an anomaly.

Most anomalous of all is the content of the Copper Scroll, which has no parallel at Qumran and no true parallel anywhere else. It is a list of the hiding places of dozens of caches of treasure—huge quantities of silver and gold. Some scholars think the treasure never existed. It was, they say, the chimerical creation of some ancient imagination. Others disagree. We (for I include myself in this group) believe the treasure was real. But whose treasure was it, and why was it hidden?

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