Some of these fragments of cave 7Q, including the well-known fragment of scroll 7Q5 which in 1972 was attributed by J. O’Callaghan to Mark 6: 52-53, have been dated by C.H. Roberts, probably the greatest paleographer of all time, a real authority on the subject, between 50 BC. and 50 AD, for which they could really have been written at the beginning of the Christian era, although many Qumranists reject O’Callaghan’s conclusions regarding the attribution to a passage from Mark. We also report the fragment on leather found in cave 4Q and technically known as 4Q121, identified with a portion of the Exodus in Greek, according to the LXX version, paleographically dated between the first century BC. and the first century. A.D. Unfortunately the Greek fragments from cave 7Q and 4Q121 are so small that it is not possible to subject them to the C14 test. In one of his articles – as well as in a series of works – G. Doudna criticizes the now common opinion according to which the Qumran manuscripts were written between the second century BC and the first century AD (typically 68 AD), supporting that all the evidence points to a drafting of the documents before the beginning of the Common Era. According to Doudna (see bibliography) the previous cases of manuscripts that could in principle fall into the first century by paleographic or radiodating are singularities that cannot be accepted and nothing proves that they were really written in the period indicated by the test at C14. His conclusion is as follows:
“The existing radiocarbon data, while conforming 2nd and 1st century BCE dates of Qumran texts, do not conform that Qumran texts are from as late as the 1st century CE. A sound interpretation of the existing data is that true dates of texts from the caves at Qumran as late as the 1st century CE are neither confirmed nor refuted on grounds of radiocarbon alone. ” (for citation, see Bibliography)
In my opinion, Doudna, in drawing her conclusions, does not sufficiently take into account the paleographic analyzes of the fragments of cave 7Q and the existence of 4Q171 which has a very low radio dating. If G. Doudna is placed at one of the two extremes of the controversy, there are instead other Qumranists, primarily R.H. Eisenman, who in order to explain their theories about the Qumran manuscripts and the connections with the Essene movement and Judeo-Christianity, reject all or almost all the datings generated by radiocarbon tests and paleography, considered too high, accentuating the defects of the method. In fact, their hypotheses – which however remain theories that can be placed on the margins of the international scientific community – require that some of the manuscripts have been deposited in the caves and / or written in a phase subsequent to 68 AD.
M. Baigent, R. Leigh, The mysteries of the Dead Sea, Fabbri editori, 2005 (original edition in English of 1991).
G. Bonani, S. Ivy, W. Wölfli, M. Broshi, I. Carmi, J. Strugnell, Radio Carbon Dating of Fourteen Dead Sea Scrolls, Radiocarbon, Vol. 34, No. 3, 1992, pp. 843-849.
A.J.T. Jull, D.J. Donhaue, M. Broshi, E. Tov, Radiocarbon Dating of Scroll and Linen Fragments from the Judean Desert, Radiocarbon, Vol. 37, No. 1, 1995, pp. 11-19.
F. Garcia Martinez, The texts of Qumran, Italian edition edited by C. Martone, Paideia, Brescia, 1996.
G. Boccaccini, Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, the Schism between Qumran and Enochic Judaism, Morcelliana, Brescia, 2003, first original edition in English: Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, the Parting of the Ways between Qumran and Enochic Judaism, WB Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, UK, 1998.
J. Zias, The Cemeteries of Qumran, Celibacy: Confusion Laid to Rest ?, Dead Sea Discoveries, 7, 2000, pp. 220-253.
S. Hodge, The Dead Sea Manuscripts, Newton & Compton editori, Rome, 2002 (original edition in English 2001).