Complete Pesher of the Resurrection

Part A: Locations

© 2005 Dr. Barbara Thiering

(Note: you may click on a photo or figure for larger view.)

All the events in the gospels took place at Qumran and its surrounds, the barren region at the north-west corner of the Dead Sea where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. The building that was uncovered by archeologists on a plateau adjoining a cliff was a monastery, the headquarters of a vast society of Jewish ascetics, whose influence extended to the Diaspora. Qumran was the original Vatican.

The ascetic movement had developed from a community of exiled aristocrats, forced to flee from Jerusalem. They included the descendants of the high priests and kings who had reigned in Jerusalem in its great days, before 587 BC. The high priests belonged to the dynasty of Zadok and the kings to the dynasty of David. Once world powers took over their small country and the better part of the population was deported, they never regained their power. Returning from Babylon to a destroyed temple, they attempted a comeback which failed. Their foreign overlords distrusted local kings, especially when they were upheld by a religious mystique.

One of the devices of pesher is to use names of places that apparently mean elsewhere, but actually mean Qumran and its surrounds. The theory was supplied by the exiles, who believed that the city of Jerusalem was chosen by God as the true centre of religion. In the same way as expatriates in a foreign country reproduce names from their homeland, they named Qumran their "Jerusalem", a new Jerusalem. There were in Hebrew two different forms of the name, and the Greek of the gospels was able to preserve them by using a plural form, Hierosolyma, whereas the singular form of the word, Ierousalēm, was used for the literal city.

In the royal mystique, a king was so identified with his city that its name was used as his name. The same theory was applied to subordinate religious leaders, so that, for example, the bishop of Galilee was identified with Galilee, and wherever he went, "Galilee" went with him. When in the gospel stories an event takes place in "Galilee", it was usually taking place at an outpost of Qumran, a small building three kilometers down the coast, right on the shore of the Dead Sea, at a place now called Ain Feshkha. Its ruins still lie there. Close to Qumran, it was used for several purposes related to monastic life. The bishop of Galilee, like other local bishops, normally lived in Galilee in the north of the country, but at the quarterly meetings of the governing Qumran council he came there, symbolically bringing his district with him.

Exact indications of location
Within a surface narrative that appears to be vague about both times and places, the pesher supplies exact information through the use of ordinary terms with special meanings. Observation of these terms, used with perfect consistency, supplies precise facts about locations, down to a single cubit.

The basic unit of measurement was the cubit, the term derived from the word for the forearm from the elbow. Although the length could vary in different outside sources, the cubit at Qumran was standardised at 18 inches(close to 46 centimeters). The objects giving their standard may actually be seen there. In the area near the aqueduct (loc 100, see Figure 1) were found two pillar bases, their carved circular shape contrasting strikingly with the rough stones used for the buildings. The diameter of the circular top of each is exactly 18 inches.

Throughout the pesher five Greek verbs "to see" appear. On the surface, they seem only to give variety, with little apparent difference in their meaning. But in the pesher every such difference has significance. It is found that each one gives the number of cubits between the person seeing and what is seen. For the verb atenizō there is 1 cubit between. For eidon and horaō (used for forms of eidon in Greek grammar), 2 cubits. For blepō, 3. For theōreō, 4. For theaomai 5. This device is one of the main helps in determining the exact size and shape of structures.

Equation of time and space
The equivalence of time and space was a basic tenet of the Pythagorean Essenes. It is illustrated in the extensive detail of the Temple Scroll, giving the measurements of the three courts and their gates in exact numbers of cubits. The main divisions for the gates were related to the fixed times of sunrise and sunset at the equinoxes and solstices. The sub-divisions of the whole space may be shown to be also sub-divisions of the hours, down to minutes. (See my study in Dead Sea Discoveries 11, 3, 2004.)

The Pythagorean Essenes were in touch with the best science of their day. This included the use of fixed length of hours, with a division of the entire day into 24 hours of equal length, the hour divided into 60 minutes. The "equinoctial hours", as they were called, had been known since the 2nd century BC, as evidenced by Hipparchus (c.140 BC) and later by the astronomer Ptolemy (c.150 AD).

A chronometer capable of measuring minutes would have been derived from the oil lamps of the Menorah, the seven-branched candlestick that burnt at night in the temple. The Menorah is referred to in the Qumran Hymns of Thanksgiving, 15/7:24. The oil burnt in each metal container diminished at a fixed rate. It only needed gradations on the inside of the metal tubes to measure minutes.


Figure 1

Figure 1. The Qumran buildings

During the two centuries of its occupation, from the 2nd century BC up to its destruction by the Romans in 68 AD, the Qumran monastery developed its buildings on a carefully conceived plan. Its major physical problem was water, since the wadies emptying into the Dead Sea only ran after the winter rains. An aqueduct brought water from the wady Qumran, flowing down the cliffside to the south of the plateau, into a deep round well in the heart of the buildings (loc 110). The well was sufficient to supply drinking water to the men who lived there permanently. In addition they constructed a number of large, deep, rectangular cisterns, usually with steps leading down into them. There can be no doubt that they were for ritual baptisms, the washings that were refreshing physically in the intensely hot climate, and additionally stood for the symbolic removal of sin from these holy men.

The well had been dug on the site in early Israelite times, the 8th century BC, with a rectangular courtyard adjoining it. When the buildings were developed from the 2nd century BC onwards the south wall of the courtyard was retained, to form a dividing line. North of the Israelite wall on its east side lay the large square monastery. On its west side, divided by a wide corridor, smaller structures surrounded the well. These were taken by the archeologists to be secondary. It may be shown, however, from study of the fixtures and measurements, that the long courtyard loc 111 was the original sanctuary of the priests exiled to Qumran, their substitute for the Jerusalem temple, until the earthquake of 31 BC. Its northern third, marked off by embedded stones, represented its Holy of Holies, the two-thirds below it its Holy House. Its dimensions were the same as those of the wilderness tabernacle, where nomad Israel had worshipped.

A door in its south wall had opened to a short path across to loc 101, which may be understood as the vestry where the priests changed from ceremonial vestments according to the rule for Zadokites in Ezekiel 44:19. They also used this room to eat the sacred loaves, the bread of the Presence, which had first been offered before God in the sanctuary (Exodus 25:30). Loc 102 was the south vestry, for a congregation being taught by the priests.

South of the Israelite wall , on its east side, lay the long hall, loc 77, with its annexe containing eating bowls, loc 86. It was not the monastic dining hall, as was at first thought. Loc 30 within the monastery was the refectory. The unprotected position of loc 77, taken with its internal features, means that it was an outer hall used by pilgrims from the villages when they came to bring their food tithes to the exiled priests.

A large gate, loc 104, obviously a back gate to the whole north side, opened into the western part of the south side of the Israelite wall. Within it lay a long cistern, loc 91. Unlike the other cisterns it had no steps within it. The steps that led to it, loc 85, stood within the Israelite wall, with a small pool beside them, loc 83. This arrangement indicates that it had a different purpose from the others.

Beside it, coming in closer where the land narrowed on the edge of the chasm, were found the remains of a row of cubicles, loc 97. They were interpreted by the archeologists as stables, but they are too narrow for horses. Once it is recognised that loc 111 was the original substitute sanctuary,where priests offered prayer and worship all day long, loc 97 may be undersood as the priests' latrines, reached by a longer path from the door in the south wall. Thus the whole south-west section was associated with uncleanness by the strict standards of the Essenes, who were well known for their concerns for personal hygiene. The cistern, loc 91, would have been for the ritual washings of monastics who were temporarily excluded for the kinds of defilement described in the Temple Scroll, column 45.


The south-west area area outside the Israelite wall would have been classed as ritually unclean by monastic rules. To mark the boundary, a skull was hung up at the entrance, meaning "death" , a warning that it began an area in which erring monastics went down to their lowest grade. This was the Place of the Skull, also called Golgotha, where the crucifixions took place. It lay "outside the gate" and "outside the camp", the terms used in Deuteronomy 23:12 for the location of a latrine. These phrases were used in Hebrews 13:12-13 for the place where Jesus was crucified.

Photo A

Photo A. The upper part of the southern esplanade as it is now.

Photo B

Photo B. The end of the exclusion cistern and the further southern esplanade.

Figure 2

Figure 2. Place of the crucifixion.

The exact position of the crosses may be determined from a space-time system. The whole of the Qumran building area, from north to south, had come to be understood as divided into segments 12 cubits wide. In the equation of time and space, each segment stood for 12 hours, sub-divided into sets of 3 hours. The northern dividing line of each segment indicated 6 am, the southern 6 pm, with noon at the centre and 9 am and 3 pm at the lesser divisions.

The buildings did not lie exactly due north-south, because of the restrictions imposed by the shape of the land. The building lines sloped down from west to east, so that in every 12 cubit width the western end lay 3 cubits north of the eastern end. This meant that it marked an hour 3 hours before the eastern end.

The limitations made by the chasm on the western side caused a narrowing of the space between the latrines and the exclusion cistern. At a certain spot there were only 12 cubits between the two installations.It was in these 12 cubits that the three crosses were set up, each 4 cubits wide including the crossbars.

The exclusion cistern lay on two segments, the upper one beginning inside the Israelite wall at its entrance and exit steps. The time on the line here, 6 pm for the segment above and 6 am for the segment below, were the times for exclusion and return. Sunset, fixed at 6 pm, was the hour when monastics returned from outside after their washings following episodes of uncleanness (Temple Scroll 45:10). The 6 am division of the next segment down marked off the lower part of the cistern. The east end of the sloping line of the crosses met its midpoint, standing for noon. The west end 3 cubits further up stood for 9 am.

According to the Synoptics, the crucifixions began at 9 am (Mark 15:25), and according to John's gospel they began at noon (John 19:14). There is a further explanation of the difference in time, due to the "three hours' darkness" (See "Chronology:three hours of darkness" in Finding the Pesher section on this site). In terms of place, the difference is explained by the fact that the western cross was on the 9 am line and the eastern one on the noon line.

Jesus on the western cross
The hierarchical order of Priest (Simon Magus), Prophet- levite (Judas Iscariot ) and King (Jesus) placed Simon on the central cross, Judas on the one to his east, and Jesus on the one to his west. It is, of course, contrary to all Christian tradition that Jesus was not on the central cross. The double meanings of words used by the pesher give the actual information to those who understood (Mark 15:28). Of the three men, Judas was only a levite and deputy to Simon, while the Priest and the King represented the two main classes, priesthood and laity. Their two crosses were named for the superior and inferior directions. That of the Priest was called "east" and "right", while that of the King was "west" and "left". The preposition ek, "out of" was always used in the pesher in the exact sense of "one space to the east". Hence Judas'cross was "out of the right" and Simon's cross "out of the left". The exact wording means that there were three crosses, of which the "left" and "west" was for the head of the inferior laity, the King. The wording gives the superficial impression - as was intended - that the meaning was "on the right" and "on the left", placing the two other men on the right and left of Jesus in the center.

John's gospel in John 19:18 uses the term enteuthen "from here" twice for the two "thieves", then adds for Jesus "in the middle" mesos, again giving the superficial impression that he was in the center. The priest and levite were both levitical, so the same term could apply to both. The word mesos applies in the context of the meal table to the position in the middle of the row next below the priest and levite, for a man third in rank to them. While they sat on a row a cubit back from the table, he sat at the centre of the row right at the table, illustrating his inferiority to them but closeness to the ordinary members.

According to John 19:20 the headboard on Jesus' cross was read "from the place of the city". The "place of the city" (ho topos tēs poleōs) was the Israelite wall, for the special meaning of topos "place" was an unclean place. The back gate into the exclusion area was on the line of the Israelite wall. It was from here, 15 cubits, 7 1/2 yards away, that the large letters on the headboard were read. (This point given in John's gospel is one of the obvious indications to those who knew Jerusalem that the crucifixion was not at Jerusalem. There was no place outside the lofty walled city to which such a short distance could convincingly be applied.)

The Method of Crucifixion
(See Section 6B, The Crucifixion, Overview, for an exact description of the crosses. The method of crucifixion, a particularly cruel method of execution, was determined by the purpose of making it last days, or even weeks. Josephus gives evidence that crucified men were still alive after he had seen them on their crosses and had gone on a journey. They were intended to stay alive in the utmost pain, wretchedness and humiliation, for far more than a day. Simon Magus and Judas were hoisted on their gibbets at 9:05 am, and Jesus as the less important one at 9:35 am. They stayed there for some 6 hours only. Then the plan of rescue that had been devised by Antipas Herod was put into action - see the Word for Word below for its details. On the excuse that it was the sabbath evening, and Jewish law forbade allowing the men to hang there on Friday night, the conspirators convinced Pilate to change the method of execution to burial alive. He consented to have them put in a pair of caves that had been cut out of the rock below the end of the southern esplanade. It was from these caves that the "resurrection" took place.


Position of the caves
All the detail indicates that the place from which the "resurrection" took place was the cave called by the archeologists 8Q. It was one of a pair, 7Q and 8Q, that had been constructed within a projection of rock coming out from the cliffside down from the southern end of the Qumran esplanade.

The exact position may be determined from a further system of measurement. Just as symmetrical divisions were imposed on the area of the buildings, further divisions were made in the wider grounds. The equation of space and time was again made, and from the system it is possible to know where each stage took place.

Figure 3a

Figure 3A. The plan of squares: Building.

Figure 3b

Figure 3B. The plan of squares: Building & Esplanade.

The larger divisions were made in sets of 25 cubits, the even larger divisions in sets of 250. On the Qumran buildings themselves a square of 150 x 150 cubits was imposed, excluding the large south-western cistern and the triangular court above it, which were for the use of pre-initiates, novices and their equals. Two further squares surrounded it, one of 200 x 200, the next 250 x 250, this one taking in the cistern at the north-west entrance and the south-west cistern.

From the southern boundary of this largest square a southern square of 250 x 250 was measured, covering the rest of the southern esplanade and the caves below its end. The boundary was marked by the wady Qumran flowing west-east into the Dead Sea.

From the boundary of the outer square the actual measurement of the length of the southern esplanade, choosing one limit among its irregular edges, was 150 cubits. The projection of rock within which the pair of caves was made, with its steep curving sides, stood out for approximately another 50 cubits at maximum, and a further limit at or near the wady below could be placed on a 250 cubit line.

The 150 cubit line at the southern end of the esplanade is called in Matthew 27:53 "the holy city". It marked the limit of the whole area within which celibates, "holy ones" could retain some measure of "holiness", even though outside the monastery. Beyond it the area including the two caves was absolutely "unclean" by monastic standards.

Throughout the pesher in all the books a standard rate of walking is drawn on, helping to determine both distances and their equivalent times. It is applicable to the time allowed for reaching the 150 cubit line. Matthew 27:52-53 draws on the rate so as to give much of the necessary information about the position of the caves. The rate was a very slow one, appropriate to monastics who wore a hooded cloak when outside their buildings, keeping their eyes lowered and saying prayers as they went. Part of their discipline was to learn the proper rate of walking. Their basic rule was that it should take one hour to cover 2000 cubits, that is 5 stadia, about a kilometer. Using the hour of fixed length with its 60 minute divisions, their rate for covering 100 cubits, that is 1/20 of 2000 cubits, was 3 minutes, 1/20 of 60 minutes.

The starting-point of measurement to go to the southern esplanade was, originally, the door leading from the sanctuary into the vestry. The door was subsequently covered when the sanctuary ceased to be used after the earthquake, and the wall constructed on its line marked the same starting-point. The outer face of the wall lay 25 cubits north of the Israelite wall, which was treated as the middle of the square containing the buildings (Figure 3). The northern 25 cubits, with the southern 75 of the lower half of the square, plus 50 for the southern sides of the two outer squares, gave a total of 150 cubits. When the 150 cubits of the esplanade measured from the outer square were added, the total distance from the starting-point was 300 cubits, giving a walking time of 9 minutes. An extra minute was added, for the priest who would go no further to take his position on the line of the "holy city". The 10 minutes needed for the walk were part of the scenario for Good Friday.

The peak of rock

Photo C

Photo C. The peak of rock.

Photo D

Photo D. Path beside the peak. Cave 4Q opposite.

Photo E

Photo E. The gap where caves 7Q and 8Q stood,now collapsed.

The projection of rock containing the caves was marked by a very prominent peak, standing out from the main cliff, strikingly visible from the plain below and from some distance away (photo E). A hazardous path winds down from the end of the esplanade above, beside the main cliff face, towards an open space between the peak and the cliffside (photos C and D below). Details of timing indicate that 5 minutes were allowed to make the climb down, since the regular walking pace could not be used.

On the inner side of the peak, near its top, two pillar- like rocks frame a structure that is centered like a door (photos C and D). Yet the door space is filled by boulders, and no cave was reported there. It may be seen that the peak had offered itself as a natural counterpart to the even more impressive structures at the end of the parallel projection holding cave 4Q, seen in photo D. Detail of the pesher indicates that 4Q had been made the burial cave of the Zadokite priest and his levite when they were exiled from Jerusalem to Qumran. Their lay subordinate, the heir of the Davids, had been assigned the parallel natural monument at the end of the esplanade for his sepulchre and that of his descendants while they were forced to stay in their place of exile. When circumstances changed and the party of the current David moved back to Jerusalem, the burial caskets were removed and the cave entrance blocked up.

Looking up from the plain, it is apparent that a large section of rock on the west side of the peak has collapsed, leaving an obvious gap (photo E). This is the physical evidence for the original existence there of two caves, the remains of which the archeologists found, naming them 7Q and 8Q. They had been artificially hollowed out of rock between the cliff on the north and the peak on the south.

Archeologists' description
Here is the archeologists' description in note form of Cave 7Q, found in 1955. (In Discoveries in the Judean Desert 3, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1962, in French)."At the extremity of the platform which extends south of the Khirbeh (the southern esplanade). A rounded chamber of which the roof, the whole southern part and a part of the earthen floor have collapsed into the wady Qumran. It was reached by a staircase coming down from the edge of the platform, to the north-west of the chamber; only the lower steps of the staircase have been preserved. Most of the written fragments were collected on these steps. One of the texts, no 19, was written on papyrus and was preserved only by its impression on a block of mud . A sherd covered with mud similarly carries the imprint of papyrus fibres and the trace of two Greek letters.... Possibility of habitation: yes, in its original state.... The total of ceramics appears to indicate that this cave was used during the two main periods of occupation of the Khirbeh."

The pottery finds included two large jars. One of them has an inscription, written twice in black on its shoulder, in Hebrew letters giving the word Roma. It has been variously interpreted, but it may be suggested that it means "Rome", and its use indicated a form of hostility to Rome in the zealot period of Qumran.

The archeologists also describe Cave 8Q. "At the south-west of cave 7Q. The method of access has not been able to be determined and a part only of the chamber has been preserved. What remained of the ceiling was cracked and it was necessary to let it fall. The texts and objects were found immediately under the earthen floor. Possibility of habitation: Probable, in its original state."

Small pottery objects were found in this cave: 4 lids of jars, a small hollow plate of a type attested but rare in Period II of the Khirbeh; the edge of a jar with a very large opening, unlike anything found elsewhere; and a decorated oil lamp, described as follows: "Its arched beak and its spiral decorations connect it with a type which is well known outside Palestine in the 1st century of our era and especially in the middle of that century. But, in these lamps, the upper part is a concave disk with a small hole for the oil. In Palestine there is a variant of this type with a rounded upper part, a moulded decoration and a large hole for the oil. It is to this group that our lamp belongs, and the nearest parallel comes from Khirbet Qumran itself. However, the lamp from Cave 8Q is bigger than all the examples just quoted. There is only, coming from Khirbet Qumran, the fragment of a lamp of similar size with an identical decoration. Only the colour is different (brown instead of black) and it can be asked if the two lamps do not come from the same mould.....The lamp is the only object that can be dated with enough precision and it fixes the occupation of the cave at Period II of Khirbet Qumran"

Also found in this cave were "two phylactery cases with four compartments, and a phylactery case with a single box; the two models were already found in cave 1Q. A piece of a sandal sole, a date with its skin, a fig, several date seeds, an olive seed. Many fine thongs and some strips of leather. Remains of cloth and string..."

Internal structure of the caves

Figure 4

Figure 4. The original form of caves 7Q and 8Q

When these facts and the pesher detail are taken together, the following reconstruction may be made of the caves that once stood where the gap now appears.

The peak, used at first for the king's sepulchre, had a short northern side and a long southern side. Its short side containing its original entrance came down to solid rock, extending from the main cliff. Its long side curved out to run continuously down to the plain far below. To its west, in the space between its northern side and the main cliff, a ridge of rock originally ran out towards the west for some 12 cubits (6 yards, 18 feet). Its position cannot be seen in photos C and D, taken from the east side, but the space for it is clear in photo E, taken from the west. It had stood where the gap is now seen, its western length having collapsed, as the archeologists note. The ridge collapsed, or was easily destroyed, because it had been entirely hollowed out to construct artificial caves. There were originally two of the same size side by side, the more easterly one 7Q, the one beside it to the west 8Q. They were a pair, forming a single unit in terms of function and imagery. They shared a door at the centre.

The top of the ridge had been lower than the top of the peak, and only 5 cubits north-south across. The ridge also had a short northern side and a long southern side. The chambers made in it had in all three storeys, divided by floors. On the short side there was only one storey above ground, while the next two storeys were made underground. On the long side all three storeys were open to the south, permitting windows. When the caves collapsed, they naturally fell to the south, to the wady and plain below.

The north side of the two storeys hollowed out underground lay within solid rock, so that there could be no windows or light on this side. Above ground on this rock, fronting the door of the upper storey, was the open space containing the path down from the esplanade. The path ran between the peak and the main cliff (photo D, its beginning at the opening beside the platform on which the sepulchre entrance stood), then down in front of the north entrance to the caves (Figure 4). The main path was 2 cubits wide. Following a natural slope downwards, by the time it came opposite the shared door of the upper storey it needed 2 steps, each a cubit deep, to come down to the level of the threshold. The remains of these steps were found by the archeologists.When it was not known that 8Q had once stood beside it and shared the door, it was thought that the steps ended at the north-west of 7Q, as the description states.

Between the steps and the door, on the solid rock beneath, ran a lower path that had had to be dug out in order to give the needed height to the upper storey within the ridge. It was made another 2 cubits wide, an outer and an inner one each of a cubit. People coming down the steps to the caves walked across it to the shared door. (Figure 4)

The hollowing out of the underground chambers had left a stone ceiling that was also the floor of the room above ground. The impression given to the archeologists that 7Q and 8Q were independent caves came from the fact that part of the western stone ceiling had survived, but in a cracked state, so that they allowed it to drop. The room above it, including the shared door to both caves, had not survived, so that they could not discover the entrance to 8Q.

In the underground section in each cave a wooden floor divided the two storeys, supported by beams inserted in the walls. The two storeys each had a height of 4 cubits, enough for a man to stand (2 yards, 6 feet). There were thus four underground chambers, two to each of the caves, all 4 cubits in height.

The massive cliff below had been formed by geological forces into a series of funnels, each with strata of limestone. As can be seen from photo E, the funnel under the gap came out towards the west at an angle from the north-south side of the main cliff. Its top is now very much eroded, but it can be seen that the ridge had once stood on it.

The upper chamber above ground had been limited to 5 cubits by the width of the ridge. Within it, a northern wall 1 cubit wide contained the door, then after 3 cubits of space its southern wall was again 1 cubit thick. In the underground chambers, however, the excavators had been more free to shape the space according to a symmetrical plan. It was governed by the number of 4 cubits, both because this corresponded to a man's height, and because of the Essene Pythgorean preferences for squares and the number 4. Choosing a width north-south of 4 cubits, they placed the northern back of the chambers in the rock under the inner path, so that the first cubit of their 4 cubit internal width lay under the 1 cubit wall of the upper chamber. Their southern wall, 1 cubit thick, continued the southern wall of the upper chamber.

The east-west width of the chambers was also fixed at 4 cubits. Each of the four underground chambers was internally a cube of 4 x 4 x 4 cubits.

The centrally hinged door
The central door to the upper chamber was 2 cubits wide (1 yard, 3 feet).It was shared between the two caves, with one cubit for each. This was possible because it had two leaves, hinged in the middle, latched at each outer side on to the rock wall of the upper chamber. Each half opened inwards, for 1 cubit only, within the 1 cubit north wall of the upper chamber. It was possible for one leaf, usually the western one for 8Q, to be folded back over the eastern one for 7Q, and for the door thus doubled to be opened on to the central line. The two halves of the door were not always opened together, the west half every week, the eastern half rarely, as it led to a dungeon for prisoners.

The common wall
A common wall, 2 cubits wide, ran north-south in the centre under the central 2 cubit door, separating the two caves. It lay underground only, its top touching the stone ceiling of the underground caves. Its 2 cubits, with the two 4 cubit chambers on each side, together with the 1 cubit outer walls, accounted for the total 12 cubits east-west of the chambers.

All windows consisted of large square openings of 2 x 2 cubits made in the thickness of the outside rock. Such windows are illustrated in Cave 4Q, still surviving. Only the western chambers had windows, none in the eastern chambers used for a dungeon. The windows began a cubit above the floor, their 2 cu width centred in the north-south 4 cubits of the wall. They were placed in both the upper and lower chambers of the western cave, on both the southern and the western walls.

The western wall of 8Q had windows looked across the intervening chasm to cave 4Q. This fact, given in the pesher of Luke's parable of the Rich Man (Luke 16: 26), helps identify the cave. Photo F shows the relationship of the peak and cave 4Q, with the intervening chasm.

Photo F

Photo F. The chasm between 8Q and 4Q.

Uses of the caves.


While the main peak offered itself as a suitable monument above the king's sepulchre, the natural ridge running west from near the peak was seen as a suitable place to hide the king's property, in tunnel-like ancillary chambers. The usual purpose of 7Q was to be a vault for storage of money belonging to the king, while the usual purpose of 8Q was for money belonging to his crown prince. When there was any danger of theft, guards patrolled the paths on the flat open space outside the door.

The purpose of treasuries is seen from the second sentence of the Copper Scroll, 1:5-9, describing the place of deposit of a large amount of money. Some Hebrew words that have not been clearly understood may, when better understood, be seen as referring to the peak and its attached cave 7Q. It reads "In the nephesh (literally 'soul', used for sepulchral monument) of the son of the third resh-beth-he, 100 ingots of gold." (Discoveries in the Judean Desert 3 p.284) The word "son" indicates that the following words are a name, and that resh-beth-he Rabbah is a form of Rabbi, "Great One". The phrase may be read as "in the sepulchral monument of the son of the third Great One." The Qumran hierarchy, as understood from the pesher, supplies a meaning for the Third Great One and his "son", that is deputy. The Sariel priest, the king's priest, was the third in the hierarchy of three priests after "Michael" the Zadokite and "Gabriel" the Abiathar priest (Community Rule 8:1, War Scroll 9:15-16 with 2 Samuel 20:25-26). As a teacher of villagers, he was called Rabbi, Greek didaskalos. The David in his lowest role could be called his "son", a grade below him. The sentence is referring to the complex containing the sepulchral monument of the David, and to its associated chamber holding a very large amount of money intended for political purposes.

The primary purpose of the central door of the upper chamber was to protect the treasures below. For that reason it was made of iron. It was centrally hinged so that each leaf could be opened independently, the eastern one over the king's cave with its large amounts of money, the western one over the prince's cave holding lesser amounts. Exact terms for each element in the structure were used, giving precision about where each event occurred. The eastern half-door was called "the tomb", mnēmeion.. It referred to the king's sepulchre of which the treasury was a part, and was an allusion to the pyramids or tombs of Egypt, as well as to the biblical phrase the "iron furnace of Egypt" (Deuteronomy 4:20). Another iron door is mentioned in Acts 12:10, serving related imagery.

The preposition "eis" meaning "to" is used with the exact sense of "at", to mean the next cubit adjacent to another When a person was eis to mnēmeion , he or she was standing on the inner path in the cubit in front of the eastern half- door. When the western half was folded over the eastern half, a modified term was used for the doubled east door, to mnēma . When a person stood epi to mnēmeion or epi to mnēma, he or she stood within the 1 cubit square eastern doorway when the doors were open.

The word thyra, "the door" had the special meaning of the door handle, attached at the side to the east wall. It belonged in both the east edge of the east door and the side of the wall into which the door had been carved. It was necessary that the door should normally be locked in order to guard the treasure. Each half was locked separately at the latch joining it to the wall.

The key to the eastern lock was held by the king, and the western one by the prince, to guard their separate treasures within. Since the heir of David was the potential king at Qumran, his key was called the key of David. This is the practical meaning behind Revelation 3:7, concerning Jesus, "The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David."

The dungeon
The treasure was stored in the lower chamber of each cave. The upper chanber of 7Q was used as a dungeon, to confine the king's enemies above his treasure. It was in this dungeon that the two "thieves", Simon Magus and Judas Iscariot, were placed with broken legs after they were taken down from the crosses. It was necessary to break their legs so that they could not reach up through the 4 cubit height and open the blocked entrance. There were no windows in this chamber. There could not be any on its northern and eastern sides, which were cut into rock, and none had been made in its southern side.

The hospital chamber
The western cave had a more benign purpose. As will be shown, it not only held the prince's treasury but on Friday afternoons was used as the sabbath latrine, being within the permitted distance for walking on the sabbath. The facility was in its lower chamber, and the room above it was used on occasions of serious illness. It was in this room that Jesus was placed when he was taken down from the cross, still alive.

A bed 4 cubits long stood against the common wall, the position for the patient's head to the south, as was also the practice for Qumran burials. On the southern wall beside and above the bed the large window opened to the south, as well as the window on the west, giving air.

The large lamp found in 8Q, described by the archeologists, would have been used for nursing at night. It would have been this light, seen in the southern window, that alerted Mary Magdalene in a building to the south that Jesus was being given nursing attention in the cave.

When the hospital chamber was being used on Friday afternoons, a problem arose concerning closing its western half-door, which shoud be left open for the patient to be reached. The sabbath rule demanded that it should be closed at the beginning of the true sabbath, on Friday night at either 6 pm or midnight. Rigorists who kept such laws as CD 11: 12-14 would demand that it be closed. "No man shall assist a beast to give birth on the sabbath day. And if it should fall into a cistern or pit, he shall not lift it out on the sabbath". Others held views closer to the one expressed in Luke 14:5, "which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well, will not immediately pull him out on a sabbath day?" As the wording of the pesher shows, this door was in fact left open during the Friday night.

The shafts and stones

Figure 5

Figure 5. Structure of the caves.

Access to the underground chambers was made on the same principle as for cave 4Q, down a shaft leading from the top. The shafts would have been wooden, made of light weight half tree trunks hollowed out, forming slides with slightly raised sides, a cubit wide. They ran from the central doorway downwards and outwards towards the eastern or western wall. The western shaft led down towards the window in the western wall, giving light to the end of the shaft and to a person standing there. The eastern shaft led only into the darkness of the dungeon.

The opening of each shaft was under the square cubit of the doorway. When the chambers were intended to be blocked, a large stone of about 1 cubit in thickness was placed in the opening of the shaft. The stones rested in niches, a 1x 1x 1 cube, cut out from the north end of the centre of the stone floor that was also the ceiling of the underground chambers. Thus when they were in place they formed part of the floor and could be stood on when the doors were open.

When the opening was blocked, the only means of allowing air in to the dungeon was through the small spaces beside the round stone in the square niche. This space was filled in with mortar, such as is often found cementing the rough stones in the Qumran buildings. It so blocked the niche that when the stone was in place no air could come in to the dungeon, and criminals inside would suffocate. One of the actions of a supporter of Simon Magus on Good Friday night was to use a stratagem to remove the mortar

When the stones were removed, they were brought up through the doors to the flat open space outside and placed against the wall of the upper chamber, on the inner path. Since the path sloped slightly downwards, it was safer to put stones on the eastern side of the dungeon doorway. The stone from 8Q was normally the only one moved, and it was placed in the cubit immediately to the east of the dungeon door. When both stones were moved, the one from 8Q was placed further out, while the stone from 7Q was placed next to the doorway. If the 7Q stone was replaced but the 8Q stone was intended to stay out, it was rolled forward to the position beside the door. If the sabbath rules were in operation, it had to be rolled, as lifting was forbidden on the sabbath.

The physiological imagery
A physiological image was in use in the Qumran meal room, as has been seen (See "The Heavenly Man" in Finding the Pesher section on this site). The different rows were interpreted as corresponding to the bodily parts of a Heavenly Man. Higher leaders sat on rows corresponding to his head and upper body, while lesser leaders corresponded to his lower parts. Row 13, the row between the north vestry for celibates and the south vestry for the congregation, was said to correspond to his genitals. Fertility imagery was used for the spiritual life that was given to the congregation from the higher leaders on this row.

The caves were part of the "unclean" area of the Qumran grounds. Testicles were commonly called "stones". The two stones, side by side at the centre at the entries to the shafts, lent themselves to the physiological imageryof genitals.

The iron door stood above the two stones. In terms of the physiological imagery, its position lent itself to interpretation as the erect phallus. The image enhanced one of the concepts, that a grave was the place in which the "seed" would "fall into the ground and die" but then rise to new life through resurrection.

The two stones were called by different names to distinguish them, the east one over 7Q called the Rock, petra, the west one over 8Q the Stone, lithos. The frequent references to the rolling away of the stone in the resurrection story concern these two stones.

8Q as the sabbath latrine
The caves, within the square of 250 cubits from the outer limit of the Qumran grounds, were well within the sabbath walking limit of 1000 cubits stated in CD 10:20 "No man shall walk in the field to do business on the sabbath. He shall not walk more than 1000 cubits beyond his town."

The Essene rules of hygiene were so striking that they were known to outsiders, recorded by Josephus. Their strictness came from their advanced medical knowledge. They had combined it with their ascetic discipline to make a demanding ritual. On ordinary weekdays, the celibates - the laymen but not the priests - went to a place some distance away, where before defecating they dug a hole in the ground with a spade they were given on first becoming associated with the ascetics. They squatted with their garments spread over it, "in order not to offend the rays of the sun". The War Scroll (7: 6-7) states that on the battlefield the latrine was to be built 2000 cubits away - about one kilometer - "so that no indecent nakedness will be seen in the surroundings of all their camps". The same passage says that the holy angels, who were present with their hosts, would be offended by the presence of a man who had had a nocturnal emission - the prohibition also named in the Temple Scroll (45:7).

According to the sabbath rule it was forbidden to walk the 2000 cubits to the usual distant place on the sabbath. This was the reason for the rule also reported by Josephus, that the Essenes forbade defecation on the sabbath Being even more strict than orthodox Jews in sabbath observance, they forbade this kind of work also. Their times for use of the latrine were as strictly regimented as were all facets of monastic life. The latest hours allowed for defecation were at 4 am and 4 pm. The occasion on Saturday at 4 am was forbidden. However, up to Friday at 4 pm it was permitted for this purpose to treat the sabbath as not yet having begun, while the rule against walking was applied from 3 pm. Cave 8Q, within the limit, was used every Friday afternoon between 3:30 pm and 4 pm. After its use the opening at the top was blocked by the Stone. It would stay closed for a week until the following Friday. The 24 hour prohibition ended on the Saturday at 4 pm, when the usual place some distance away was again used.

It was the lower chamber of 8Q that was normally used for the latrine, below the hospital chamber. This purpose was additional to that of storing the prince's treasure. Four wooden steps, each a cubit deep, led down to it from the south end of the hospital chamber, beginning at the second cubit in from the west, below part of the south window. The steps ran south-north. The stairwell opened a space 3 cubits long and 1 cubit wide on the intermediate floor. (Figure 5)

When the hospital chamber was being used, as was the case on Good Friday when Jesus was placed there, this sabbath latrine was not used by the celibates in order to avoid disturbing the patient. There was another suitable place, the priests' latrines on the western edge of the esplanade once connected with the sanctuary. Thus only a very few men actually saw Jesus there.

From an understanding of the grades and from passages in the Scrolls, the internal arrangements of the lower chamber may be understood, relevant to events in the hospital chamber.

The lower floor space of this chamber was also 4 x 4 cubits, making it possible to have 12 positions 1 cubit square around the walls, each containing a pit as described in the Temple Scroll 46:14-15 , the pits going down into the rock below. The centre space of 2 x 2 cubits was for the steps, the fourth one ending the east side of the stairwell. Since all arrangements followed hierarchical order, and since the north was the superior direction followed by the east, the 12 spaces around the walls were graded, the 4 superiors along the north row, the next two on the east, the next 4 on the south wall, number 9 being under the top wooden step.

The floor above was treated as the roof over the positions, its cubit squares defined in the same terms. Thus the first one was called "place 1". It was in the cubit next down from this cubit, eis hena topon, that the headcloth lay in John 20: 7. In Figure 5 the positions on the upper flloor are marked SL(sabbath latrine) 1, etc.

Twelve lay celibates were heads of all lay members of the ascetic community, forming a supreme council of the laity meeting at the communal headquarters at Qumran. They formed the third rank in the council, under 12 levites and 12 priests (Temple Scroll 57:11-12). All members were divided into grades. Their grades were numbered from 1 to 12, the highest being 1. The highest leader, number 1, was the king, the heir of David; number 2 his crown prince. The two lowest belonged to the inferior grades 11 and 12. The initiation process began at grade 10 above these. Thus the 12 were divided into a 10, with 2 below them treated as outsiders. Grades 11 and 12 were those to which excommunicants were sent down.

In the lower chamber positions 11 and 12, beside the lower western window, were not used by the heads of grades 11 and 12, who were not permitted to keep the sabbath laws. The positions and their pits were used instead for storing money, giving rise to the term "filthy lucre" for money. It was in the lower position 11 that the Rich Man was found according to the parable in Luke 16:19-31. He looked through the western window across the chasm to cave 4Q, where he conversed with "Abraham", the current Pope, and his deputy, at that time Simon Magus, called "Lazarus the leper". A name for position 11 was "Hades", a term drawn from Greek mythology for the underground lake of filth. By contrast, a position beside the top of the steps, to which men came up for cleansing after using the lower chamber, was called "paradise". This was the "paradise" that was meant in the conversation on the crosses. "Today you will be in paradise" was the coded arrangement with Simon Magus, made by Theudas, that Simon would be brought later that evening into the hospital chamber (Luke 23: 41-43).

The buildings that were used on other days may also be known, and were part of the resurrection story. The first archeologists observed a few ruins on the plain below Qumran, about a kilometer down. It was subsequently seen that there had been a pair of buildings there, one inside and one outside a long dividing wall running south. A kilometer corresponds closely to 5 stadia or 2000 cubits, the distance stated in the War Scroll to be appropriate to the position of latrines. A passage in the Copper Scroll (6:11) speaks of the "queen's house". It may be understood that the building inside the wall was the "queen's house". The leading women, the wives of dynasts, met there. It was the place for female ablutions, while the building outside the wall was for males on ordinary days. This latter building was the Manger, for "beasts", in the story of the triumphal procession.

The circle of hours. Time=space
The Temple Scroll plan for walls and gates implies that guards were set along the walls, at intervals measured in cubits, which also stood for minutes. It was possible to tell the time from the position of the guard.

The special meanings given to the verbs "to see" , supplying the exact number of cubits between the person seeing and what is seen, give information about positions that express both space and time. When it is known that guards set outside the tomb patrolled a space in front of the doors of 12 cubits, and that there were two guards, then the example of the Temple Scroll guards indicates that each covered his half of the space in 5 minutes. The eastern guard stood on the central cubit outside the eastern half-door between :00 and :01 of every 5 minutes. Between :01 and :02 he stood on the next cubit to the east; then through the next three cubits between :02 and :03, between :03 and :04, and between :04 and :05. Then he reversed and came back to the centre. In parallel fashion, the western guard covered the western cubits. (See Figure 5)

As in the Temple Scroll plan, it was possible to tell the time from the position of the guard. The use of this space-time synthesis is illustrated in Mark 16:4 for the events of 3 am on Saturday. The Stone had now been rolled back into its niche within the western half-door. The guards were still using the outer path, which they had had to use while the stones were outside on the inner path. Helena, the woman indicated by the feminine plurals, was on the eastern inner path, shadowing the movements of the guard. She was said to "look(up)" (ana)blepō and "look" (theōreō). When she stood on the :03 cubit, there were 3 cubits between her and the position of the replaced Stone, so the verb blepō is used. At the end of the minute, she moved to the next cubit out, so there were 4 cubits between, and the verb theōreō is used. Thus, since this part of the action took place from 3:00 am, she stood there at 3:03 and 3:04 am.

In John's gospel, where the range of verbs "to see" is frequently used, both Mary Magdalene and John Mark looked into the caves. John Mark, looking into the cave where Jesus lay, saw, theōreō (John 20:5). In John 20:11-12 Mary Magdalene looking into the other cave saw Simon Magus, "angel 2", theōreō. The use of theōreō accords with observations that may be made about a major time-space scheme, the circle of hours.

The Temple Scroll plan of walls and gates reflects only the positions of the sun at major points of the day, not reflecting individual hours. It was possible to construct a diagram which would express the hours, and at the same time indicate positions taken at the hours, so being of use to the pesharist. When lines a cubit apart were drawn in both directions, a circle of 8 cubit diameter could be imposed upon them, meeting the juncture of the cubit lines at even distances round the perimeter of the circle, giving 24 points. (Figure 5) This could only happen for a circle of 8 cubit diameter. An X laid on it gave the 8 watches, the 3-hour divisions. It made a division at the points where the circle did not meet the juncture of the cubit lines.

For those using the Julian start of day the hours started at midnight at the northern point of the circle when it was placed north. Caves 7Q and 8Q opened towards the north, and it is apparent that the Julian start of day was in use.

A circle of diameter 8 cubits has a radius of 4 cubits. A person looking down through 4 cubits of the circle was looking through the radius, with space at the other end for what was seen. If it was known which radius was being used, the exact spot would be known.

Other detail of the pesher shows that the time when the sabbath latrine was used was between 3 and 4 pm on Friday afternoons. On a circle of hours, the south-western X line and the next line above it represented this hour. It was in accord with Qumran thinking to construct the hospital chamber of 8Q according to this scheme. A shaft had to lead down into the cave, as also in cave 4Q. From the central niche for the Stone, which was removed at this hour, an open shaft 4 cubits long slanted down and forward. The 4 cubits, 6 feet, was long enough for a man to lie on. It ended in line with the lower half of the western window, itself placed in the centre of the chamber wall. The light from the window would show the spot more clearly. Because the height of the chamber was 4 cubits, the shaft would end a cubit above the floor, supported on 1 cubit uprights. The habit of symmetry would ensure that the eastern shaft was placed in the same way.

It will be shown how this scheme enabled the pesharist to pinpoint the exact spot where the cloths lay and where Jesus stood. Such precison helped prove the fact that he was intended to discover, that it was a real and natural event, with nothing miraculous about it.

The use of a circle of 24 hours was the beginning of the Christian tradition of placing clocks above churches. It came from the earliest pre-Christian stage, when the Jewish monastic Pythagoreans treated sacred precincts as a means of revealing time.

Guard duty

Guard positions

Animation 2. Guard positions from 4:05PM for each minute. Change of sides every half-hour. (T = Theudas, M = Merari)

11:59PM   12:00midnight   12:01AM

12:30AM   12:31AM

Figure 6. Guard positions

(T= Theudas. M= Merari.) (P= Peter. J= John Mark or substitute.) Substitutes acted when John Mark was in the cave with Jesus. They were Mary Magdalene at midnight and James Niceta from 1.05 to 1.35 am.

Two guards were necessary, to patrol the 12 cubit width of the paths outside the two caves. They were there on Pilate's orders to guard the two criminals in the dungeon, not Jesus, who was believed by Pilate to be dead. They began their duty at 4:05 pm, when Simon and Judas had been put in the dungeon and its door was locked. Then at 6 pm Pilate was warned to order them to continue, for Caiaphas knew well how Simon's supporters might take advantage of the midnight hour, the Julian start of day that he observed.

Of the two guards, Theudas, an elderly man, was the senior, and Ananus the Younger, a young man, was the Merari, holding the lowest levitical office (Numbers 3). They patrolled according to military custom, marching slowly so as to normally occupy one cubit per minute, and changing sides every half-hour to ensure alertness. The senior guard Theudas patrolled the superior east side on the hour, while Merari was on the west. On the half-hour Theudas took the west and Merari the east.

As seen in the Circle of Hours, each took 5 minutes to traverse the 6 cubit width of his half of the paths. He began at the center at :00, and stepped to the successive cubits east or west at :01, :02, :03, :04 and :05, then returned to the center.

The changing of the guard at the center needed two cubits, for the guard to step from his :00 position to the alternate :00 position. When the half-hour came for changing the guard, the man who was to change to the superior east traversed the two :00 positions on the inner path in one minute, to bring him to the next cubit out in his new direction at :01. He was said to "run", because he doubled his pace at this point. The other man, who was changing to west, used the two :00 positions on the outer path, then normally came in to the inner path for his subsequent positions.

Thus both paths, inner and outer, were for the use of guards. When on rare occasions the two stones were placed on the eastern side of the dungeon door - both together there because of a slight downward slope of the path - they were in the way of the guard for the eastern side. This happened on Good Friday night. In that case the outer path was used by both guards, to be symmetrical. The changing of the guard moving to the east took place at the inner center, then both went to the outer path.

On Good Friday night there was another variation, that the hospital chamber contained a sick man, and the western half-door should be left open according to the compassionate suspension of the sabbath rule. While the guards were at their outermost position at :05, 6 cubits away, this door was left unguarded. It was possible that rigorist enemies of Jesus might close it on him, treating midnight as the Julian beginning of the sabbath when both doors must be closed. Peter and John Mark volunteered for the duties of assistant guards, stayng at the center or in the next cubit out.

The assistants remained at the center, but had to move from it when the guards were changing on the hour and half-hour. While that was happening the two assistants stood one cubit further out, at the :01 positions on each side, on the outer path. When the guards stepped out to these positions, the assistants moved into the center, the superior on the inner path and the lesser one on the outer, and remained there to guard the door.

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