Biblical Archaeology



Identification of the 7Q5 fragment with Jeremiah 16:3..4



  The subject of the analysis in this article is the 7Q5 fragment, which was found in cave No. 7 of Khirbet, Qumran, in the land of Cisjordan or West Bank. (7 stands for the grotto were it was found, the letter Q is for Qumran and Nº 5 is the papyrus number). The 7Q5 is preserved in the Museum of Jerusalem and belongs to the collection of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which gather the works of the Essene community.

  The fragment is 3.9 cm long by 2.7 cm wide; it is only written on one of its sides, and shows some ten letters arranged in four lines, which belong to a Greek text. The specific features of all fragments found in cave No. 7, show that they belong to scrolls written in Greek language. Which was the fate of their scrolls?

  The Qumran area shows some signs of having been inhabited at the time of the revolt of Bar Kocheba, in the years 132 -135 BC. And the fact that in caves 7 and 3 were only found tiny fragments of papyrus instead of whole scrolls, suggests the hypothesis that they were discovered and looted after its closing in 68 AD.

  A peculiarity of cave 7 was the finding of one piece of terracotta with four Hebrew letters written on it, which belonged to an amphora. Where were the other pieces of amphora? For, even if it were possible to think that the rest of the papyri had been degraded to the point of disappearing, this cannot be said of a terracotta amphora. The facts demonstrate unequivocally that the material stored in the cave had been removed and that the piece of amphora and small fragments of papyrus were only a few remains of the plunder.


This hypothesis has a historical basis


Eusebius of Caesarea (265-340 AD) says that Origen (185-250 AD) had a manuscript of the Psalms written in Greek, which was found inside a terracotta vessel near Jericho, in the days of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. (Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History, Book 6; 16.1 to 4). On the other hand, about 392 A.D, Epiphanius writes that in the seventh year of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (217 AD), several Biblical manuscripts of the Greek version of the LXX were found, along with other manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek, within some jars of clay that were near Jericho. (Jacques-Paul Migne. “Patrologia Graeca, vol. 43 (1864) cols.265-268).

  There is also a document of the eleventh century, in which the Nestorian Patriarch of Seleucia Timothy 1st. acknowledges the discovery of some ancient scrolls found in a cave near Jericho, a city which is about ten kilometers from Qumran. Timothy 1st states that when the inhabitants of Jerusalem heard of the discovery, rushed towards the grotto and found several biblical scrolls written in Hebrew. This cave could be the No. 7 of Qumran, because it is near Jericho and there are no other caves around the city where to hide documents.

  Now, according to these historical accounts, the Greek fragments in the caves 3 and 7 cannot belong to the New Testament but rather to the books of the LXX version.


Here below are the various identifications of Fragment 7Q5



  In the year 1972, the Spanish papyrologist Jose O'Callaghan identified the 7Q5 fragment as belonging to the Gospel of Mark, and placed it in Chapter 6, verses 52 and 53. This identification was supported in 1984, by the papyrologist Carsten Peter Thiede.

  The fourth letter of the second line was then identified as a Τ, which was supposed to be the first letter of the second word on verse 53: Καὶ Διαπεράσαντες”, a word that does not start with a Τbut with a “Δ”. O'Callaghan and Thiede argued that this fact was due to a delta-tau change, by which in some cases, “Δ” is replaced by Τ”. But there is another problem, if the identification supported by O'Callaghan and Thiede was correct, the words ἐπὶ τὴν γῆνwould have to be removed from the text, in order that the Greco-Roman stichometry (the number of letters in a line) does not get altered and the letters of the fragment may coincide.

  Their identification was immediately challenged. Its main critics were the German theologian Kurt Aland and specialists of the “École Biblique” of Jerusalem, but also others. For example:

  María Victoria Díaz-Caro Spottorno (Researcher at the National Research Council and at the Institute of Languages ​​and Cultures of the Mediterranean and the Middle East) attributed it in 1952, to a passage from the book of Zechariah, chapter 7: 4..5.

  In 1973, researcher and writer Paul Garnet acknowledged it as Exodus 36: 10..11.

  In 1992 Daniel B. Wallace recognized it as a passage of Philo of Alexandria.

  In 1999, the American researcher Ernest Muro said that the most likely identification was that of a passage in Genesis 46:20.

  However, all these researchers and scholars arrived to their conclusions on the base that the three letters ΝΝΗ” (lowercase: ννη) in the third line of the fragment, belonged to the word: Γεννησαρὲτ” or Gennesaret.

  In the Old Testament the word Gennesaret may only be found in five passages: Numbers 34:11, Deuteronomy 3:17, 13:27 and 19:35, Joshua and 1 Kings 15:20, and is also rarely found in the New Testament, only in Matthew 14:34, Luke 5:1 and Mark 6:52..53. Besides, having previously identified the letters “ΝΝΗ” as belonging to the word Gennesaret, the logical assumption is that the next letter must be a “Σ” (lowercase: σ”), and this interpretation allows one single match: “ΓΕΝΝΗΣΑΡΕΤ” (lowercase: Γεννησαρὲτ”). However the assumption that “Σ” comes after three letters is in fact problematic, because it is based in mere speculation; the only recognizable letters are “ΝΝΗ”, as the image shows.


Image 1


  In the Greek version of the Septuagint, the sequence of the three letters ννη is repeated in several names, particularly in the verb “create”. For example: ἐγέννησεν, ἐγέννησας, γεγέννηκά, γεγέννησαι, γεννητὸς, Ιεφοννη, Αβεννηρ, Χαλαννη, etc.

  Furthermore, the identification of the third letter after the group τωon the first line, poses another doubt. Some sustain the presence of a yota subscript, followed by Α(lowercase α), while others say it is a Ν (lowercase ν).

  In April 1992, Carsten Peter Thiede took the papyrus to Jerusalem, to the forensic department of the Israel National Police, to have it examined through an electron stereo microscope. Then, the vestige of a diagonal line that started in the upper left side of the vertical line and went down towards right was perceived for the first time, and even if the diagonal line was not complete and its tracing disappeared after a few millimeters, it was enough to provide the conviction of its belonging to a Ν”.


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Below we see images of the fragment and its identification



                                                              Image 5                                                          Image 6



                                                              Image 7                                                          Image 8


Image 9


Image 10


Image 11


Ιερεµιαν 16:3..4:

ὅτι τάδε λέγει κύριος περὶ τῶν υἱῶν καὶ περὶ τῶν θυγατέρων τῶν γεννωµένων ἐν τῷ τόπῳ τούτῳ καὶ περὶ τῶν µητέρων αὐτῶν τῶν τετοκυιῶν αὐτοὺς καὶ περὶ τῶν πατέρων  αὐτῶν  τῶν  γεγεννηκότων  αὐτοὺς  ἐν  τῇ  γῇ ταύτ ν θανάτῳ”.


Jeremiah 16:3..4:

  “For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them, and concerning their fathers who generated them in this land: They shall die”.