Recently Ada Yardeni, the foremost paleographer working in Israel today, made a startling claim: More than 50 Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts were copied by the same scribe.1 The 54 manuscripts came from six different caves: Qumran Caves 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 11. Even more surprising, Yardeni identified the same scribal hand in a manuscript of the Joshua Apocryphon found 30 miles south of Qumran at the famous desert fortress of Masada, the last holdout in the Jewish revolt against Rome.
Yardeni is not the first scholar to identify more than one Qumran text copied by the same scribe. After all, scribes in ancient Judea were trained professionals; it is not surprising that each scribe would have written several of the more than 900 documents that comprise the Dead Sea Scrolls. Careful study of scribal hands has shown that a number of other manuscripts were copied by a single scribe. For example, thescribe who penned one of the intact scrolls (the Community Rule—1QS) from the famous Cave 1, where Bedouin made the initial discovery of the scrolls, also copied an important text of the Biblical Book of Samuel (4QSamc) and made corrections in what is probably the most famous of the scrolls, the Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaiaha).