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Drew Longacre – Scribes and Their Psalters: Situating Ancient Psalm Collections in Their Scribal Contexts
The textual diversity evident in the Dead Sea Scrolls has forced scholars to reconsider fundamental questions about the history of the Hebrew Psalter and the nature of ancient Hebrew psalmody.
In this lecture, Drew Longacre will introduce key methodological and technological developments in the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls as material artifacts that shed light on this important controversy. He will argue that we can discern patterns and conventions in ancient Jewish book culture that help us interpret the forms and functions of these manuscripts as they would have been understood by their ancient writers and readers. The resulting picture is one in which a traditional Psalter was regularly copied (in multiple versions) in large, beautiful manuscripts, while smaller, less formal manuscripts often contained only selections of Psalms from the Psalter arranged for more ad hoc purposes. The diversity in form and contents evident in the Dead Sea Scrolls does not suggest that there was no established Hebrew Psalter in this period, but rather attests to the lively tradition of its copying, revision, and reuse in a wide variety of literary and liturgical contexts.
Drew Longacre (Ph.D., University of Birmingham, UK) is a researcher at Cambridge Digital Bible Research on the Psalms: Layer by Layer project, which provides exegetical resources on the Psalms for Bible translators around the world. From 2016–2021, he was the postdoctoral researcher on the ERC project “The Hands that Wrote the Bible: Digital Palaeography and Scribal Culture of the Dead Sea Scrolls” (PI: Mladen Popović), where he applied the latest advances in radiocarbon dating and digital paleography to the study of the Dead Sea Psalm scrolls. Longacre and Brent Strawn (Duke Divinity School)have received an NEH Scholarly Editions grant to complete an eclectic critical edition of Psalms 1–50 for the Hebrew Bible: a Critical Edition series from 2024–2026.