The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
Post Reply
User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Sun Apr 21, 2019 8:53 am

In A. Powell Davies' The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1956, the year in which I was born, so obviously not the year I read it). He describes the "St. Mark's Isaiah Scroll" on page 19:
"The longest of the [DSS Biblical] manuscripts, which is known as the St. Mark's Isaiah Scroll ... is made of strips of leather, stitched at the edges to form a continuous scroll. It is about a foot wide by 24 feet long. Although it shows wear, it has been carefully repaired and its condition may be counted good. The text is in Hebrew and its 54 columns contain the book of Isaiah in its entirety. There are symbols** in the margins which have not been deciphered [in 1956, not sure when or if this has ever been done]; perhaps they were indications in connection with the use of the scroll in Public Worship.

** Symbols in the margins of the columns on some of the Scrolls, the meaning and purpose of which are unknown [in 1956]. Possibly, they were indications of a liturgical nature for use in public worship. On the other hand, certain scholars have rather shockingly suggested that they are just "doodlings."
St Marks Isaiah Scroll marginal symbols.png
St Marks Isaiah Scroll marginal symbols.png (47.41 KiB) Viewed 4935 times
Does anyone know if the purpose these symbols has ever been deciphered?

DCH

User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Sun Apr 21, 2019 8:56 am

The file with the image of marginalia is attached.
Attachments
St Marks Isaiah Scroll marginal symbols.png
If you want it, here it is, come and get it ...
St Marks Isaiah Scroll marginal symbols.png (47.41 KiB) Viewed 4934 times

User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Sun Apr 21, 2019 3:56 pm

This reminds me a bit of a "magical alphabet."
Magical Alphabets.png
Magical Alphabets.png (299.26 KiB) Viewed 4928 times
The Greater Key of Solomon, 1914, "edited" by L. W. de Laurence, an affectionado of the British "Magick" fad. It was essentially his commentary upon a book published in 1889 entitled Clavicus Salomonis: Translated and edited from manuscripts in the British Museum, edited by S. Liddell MacGregor Mathers.


Whether accurate or not I cannot say.

DCH

User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Sun Apr 21, 2019 3:58 pm

The preceding file as an image:
Attachments
Magical Alphabets.png
Magical Alphabets (most are likely just made up)
Magical Alphabets.png (299.26 KiB) Viewed 4928 times

StephenGoranson
Posts: 230
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by StephenGoranson » Mon Apr 22, 2019 12:35 am

FWIW, some discussion from Jay C. Treat via the wayback machine:
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/rs/dss/marks/review.html

Edited Apr. 23, 2019
Oops, that URL works only if you search it at web.archive.org and select, for example, the first time it was saved on Dec. 5, 1998.

StephenGoranson
Posts: 230
Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2015 2:10 am

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by StephenGoranson » Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:42 am

Oops, the URL above works only if you search it at web.archive.org and select, for example, the first time it was saved on Dec. 5, 1998.

User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:15 pm

StephenGoranson wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 5:42 am
Oops, the URL above works only if you search it at web.archive.org and select, for example, the first time it was saved on Dec. 5, 1998.
Thanks Stephen,

Well, I rooted about in the Wayback machine (never tried that before) and do remember it now. "Are they Chinese symbols or just fancy Tsades?" Etc.

My hope was that someone took note of them all, figured out what passages were being referenced, and then worked out their purpose. That would really only work if the scrolls with the symbols were from a single source, but that is anything but certain. I understand that some of the glyphs had been introduced by scribal communities long before, but employed in a different way than in the DSS.

Perhaps I could look into work on the cryptic alphabet fragments. My recollection was that the cryptic alphabets turned out to be fairly simple and it was concluded that they were employed to just keep idle eyes from overseeing one of their literary productions.

Thanks again!

DCH

User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Wed Apr 24, 2019 1:42 pm

I remembered that James D Purvis had several pages of graphic illustrations of ancient scripts from ostracon, inscriptions, coins and manuscripts, Jewish, Samaritan and Phoenician.

I've attached scans of his tables of the various scripts, upon which I have drawn all sorts of notations to help me understand what I am looking at. I did it as a research aid. May HUP forgive me. The Samekhs and Tzades and several other letters can be very ornamental, and I can see a scribe or readers combining several letters to make symbols as aids for delivery of his sermons and devotional readings. The cryptic symbols seem closest, in my muddled mind, to that of Medieval Samaritan paleo-Hebrew scripts.

I've read* in that the Nabateans were also writing in "Paleo-Hebrew" script. It may be possible to come up with some examples.

DCH

* Robert Wenning, "The Nabataeans in History" (article in The World of the Nabataeans, 2007, 25-44; and Solaiman Abdal-Rahman al-Theeb, A comparative study of Aramaic and Nabataean inscriptions from North-West Saudi Arabia (e-thesus, U of Durham, 1989)
Attachments
Examples of ancient Hebrew scripts ((James D Purvis, The SP and the Origin of the Samaritan Sect, 1968).pdf
(642.97 KiB) Downloaded 75 times

User avatar
DCHindley
Posts: 2711
Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2013 9:53 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The St Mark's Isaiah Scroll's marginal symbols

Post by DCHindley » Sat Apr 27, 2019 6:51 am

Well,

I followed Stephan Goranson's suggested links. With a little more internet sleuthing I believe I am getting the picture.

There were actually 3 cryptic scripts in use, A, B & C, of which only A has been fully decrypted.

Scholars have made a reconstruction of a fragmented document related to congregational organization written in this script. They believe this document was written by the Maskil (the supreme leader) of a sectarian community.

The cipher was only a simple one, apparently meant to merely cloak the document's words from idle eyes. These ciphers were also used to make notes in scrolls, biblical and sectarian, apparently for use in the course of delivering sermons.

Since several communities (whose documents were preserved) had a Maskil, and depending how long these communities continued to exist, there could have been several. Maybe this is why there were 3 cryptic scripts? :confusedsmiley:

I wonder what events led one or more of these maskils to develop cryptic alphabets? :scratch:

Interesting stuff!

DCH

Post Reply