Thursday, October 29, 2009

Decoding Dead Sea Scrolls Designations


What exactly is 1Q22 I 1-2 ? I know it is from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but which one, and what do the letters and numbers mean? I also saw a reference to 1QDM – what is that?


To understand citations from Dead Sea Scrolls, it is helpful to segment the elements:

In this example, 1Q22 and 1QDM are two different ways of referring to the same scroll.

The first two elements, 1Q, identify the cave number and location: Qumran cave one.

Knowing the possible cave (or site) abbreviations will help you distinguish the elements of the citation. Here is a selected list of additional sites where Judean Desert documents have been found:

There are multiple methods of identifying the individual manuscripts. Each document found at a site has been assigned a unique number. Thus 1Q22 means manuscript number 22 found at Qumran cave number 1.

An alternate method of identifying a manuscript is by using a standard abbreviation for its contents. This standard abbreviation is often based on a transliteration of the Hebrew name for the text. In this example, DM is the abbreviation for Dibre Mosheh, or Sayings of Moses. In some cases, the abbreviation is based on a description in a European language. In addition, some of Dead Sea Scrolls are also known by a “popular” title.

Here is a sample list of typical names of Dead Sea Scroll texts, and their abbreviations:

Many texts have been found in multiple copies. These copies are distinguished from one another with a superscript after the text designation. For example, these three different copies of Hodayot were all found in Qumran cave 4:

4QHa (also known as 4Q427)
4QHb (also known as 4Q428)
4QHc (also known as 4Q429)

The next element in your citation is Roman numeral I, referring to column one of the scroll. The final element, the Arabic numerals 1-2, refer to lines one and two, within the specified column.

There are many exceptions to these generalities, in part because the field of Dead Sea Scroll research is still actively evolving. For more a more detailed explanation of scroll nomenclature, extensive lists of Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts, and the texts themselves, please consult the following sources:

The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew Aramaic and Greek texts with English translations. James Charlesworth, ed. (1994- )
REF BM 487 A3 1994a
[Document numbers and document names listed at the end of each volume]

Encyclopedia Of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lawrence Schiffman and James VanderKam, eds. (2000)
REF Oversize BM 487 E53 2000
[Document lists and indexes in volume 2]

The SBL Handbook of Style for Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Early Christian Studies. Alexander, Patrick, et al, eds. (1999)
Reserve PN147 .S26 1999
[8.3.5 Dead Sea Scrolls and related Texts, and Appendix F: Texts From the Judean Desert]

Discoveries in the Judaean Desert . Emanuel Tov, ed. (1955-)
REF Oversize BM 487 A1


  1. This is a most useful and helpful explanation for using the Dead Sea Scrolls. Thank you Ina. Thank you thetakeaway@jtslibrary!

  2. Fabulous! Thank you for making my students' job easier.

    David Kraemer