Here is a group photo of those of us who went to the Qumran excursion the day before the Talpiot Conference. In the front row is Valerie Hemingway, Lee McDonald, Geza Vermes, Jim Charlesworth, Leah, James Tabor, Ann Brock, Mrs. Feuerverger, Andrey Feuerverger. In the second row is Lamar Barden, Alan Segal, Konstantinos Zarras, John Hoffmann, Eric Meyers, Dick Darden, Mrs. Pokorny, Petr Pokorny, and me. It was a wonderful excursion with Professor Vermes giving us a lecture on site about his memoirs translating the Dead Sea Scrolls into English, and Professor Charlesworth walking us through the ruins.
Some of us tried to climb up to one of the caves. This is not a hike for the weary. I kept thinking, if the latrine is really behind that rock cropping, I guarantee I would have had a hard time being part of this community! My experience also got me to think long and hard about the idea that these caves are in some way a library. They are not easily accessible by any means. In fact, none of us was able to actually get to the cave we were headed for. So I'm starting to think about these caves as repositories for the literature during a time of crisis, that is the years of the Jewish War, to hide them. It is also possible that some of the caves were used as places to bury copies of sacred texts that needed to be discarded for whatever reason. But a library where people come and go, carrying manuscripts back and forth to read? I don't think so.