The preceding article described the discovery, 50 years before the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, of what has been dubbed the “First Dead Sea Scroll.” It was found in Cairo in 1897 and became known to scholars as the Damascus Document. Fragments of other earlier copies of the Damascus Document were later found in the Dead Sea caves.
The Damascus Document from the Cairo Genizah is said to be the most important single manuscript for recovering the history of the Dead Sea Scroll community. In the words of one leading scholar, the Damascus Document “is crucial for a correct assessment of Essene history.”a This article will describe what the Damascus Document suggests about the history of the Essenes who lived at Qumran. It will also explore how the Damascus Document may have made its way to the synagogue in Cairo.
Scholars have proposed two basic theories concerning the origin of the people who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. One theory suggests that the Essenes originated in Palestine, the other in Babylonia. The Damascus Document figures prominently in the formulation of both theories.