- Sep 2021
By contrast, the 364-day calendar was perfect,” they write in the Journal of Biblical Literature. “Because this number can be divided into four and seven, special occasions always fall on the same day. This avoids the need to decide, for example, what happens when a particular occasion falls on the Sabbath, as often happens in the lunar calendar. The Qumran calendar is unchanging, and it appears to have embodied the beliefs of the members of this community regarding perfection and holiness.”
The Qumran calendar had 364 days which made it easily divisible by both four and seven. This means that holidays always fell on particular days and don't cause conflicts with the Sabbath as occurs in the lunar calendar. Because of it's unchanging nature, the exactitude may have indicated to believers the ideas of perfection and holiness in a calendar preordained by God.
Ratson and Ben-Dov found that the scroll lays out the most important dates in the Qumran sect’s 364-day calendar, including the festivals of New Wine and New Oil, which are not mentioned in the Bible. It also reveals for the first time the name given to the special days on which the sect would celebrate the transition between seasons, four times a year. The days were referred to as “Tekufah”, which translates as “period”.
Given their focus on dates and calendars, what other evidence of mnemonic traditions might we draw from a culture that was likely near the transition from oral to written transmission?
Would they have had standing stones, stone circles, handheld mnemonic devices?
“The scroll is written in code, but its actual content is simple and well-known, and there was no reason to conceal it,” they write in the Journal of Biblical Literature. “This practice is also found in many places outside the land of Israel, where leaders write in secret code even when discussing universally known matters, as a reflection of their status. The custom was intended to show that the author was familiar with the code, while others were not.”
Ancient scribes sometimes wrote in code even though the topics at hand were well known as a means of showing their status.