Identification of the 7Q5 fragment with Jeremiah
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. (Nº 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
The fragment is
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
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)
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
Here below are the various identifications of Fragment
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 “Τ” but 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
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.
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
identification of the third letter after the group “τω” on 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”.
Below we see images of the fragment and its
πατέρων αὐτῶν τῶν γεγεννηκότων αὐτοὺς ἐν τῇ γῇ
“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”.