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This comment, and the ensuing thread, quoted below, reminded me of a question that I thought of a long time ago. What, exactly, is buried in Qumran? Were the items there actually used and put there for safekeeping, or were they scribal errors that were placed there out of reverence but ultimately incorrectly written/copied texts?

Bottom line: Can we look at them, and any deviations found in them from our own texts, as proof that our texts are mistaken, or were these texts put there so that people would specifically not do that, in order to preserve the correct Mesorah (which we have today)?

Quoted thread:

I heard recently that R"T's order is not something that was not something that he made up; rather, there is a mesorah for it. Archaeological evidence has been found in the Qumran caves of the Dead Sea Scrolls. – Adam Mosheh Dec 30 '11 at 5:39

I think I read in Ben Ish Hai that they found Tefilin buried next to Yehezkel's grave and I think he said they are Rabenu Taam's... – Hacham Gabriel Dec 30 '11 at 5:57

@HachamGabriel, interesting. – Adam Mosheh Dec 30 '11 at 6:19

@HachamGabriel In the end of the first Bach in Siman 34 the Bach quotes a Smag and Mordechai saying that it was Rashi tfillin buried there. Some say that it was because Rashis are pasul and that's why they were buried there. The Bach says that it couldn't be for that reason as one could just change the order of the parshios and doesn't have to bury them. – Shmuel Brin Mar 2 at 18:43

@ShmuelBrill see Levush 34 – Hacham Gabriel Mar 2 at 22:58

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Even if we could demonstrate that these were meant as accurate texts, that wouldn't mean, as you put it, "that our texts are mistaken." They might have been according to a minority view that was in the end rejected (as with the שלשה ספרים מצאו בעזרה, Yerushalmi Taanis 4:2). –  Alex Jun 12 '12 at 17:27
Come to think of it, too, there are quite a few places where the Gemara's text of Tanach differs slightly from ours (similarly Rashi's, etc.). Those are surely much more reliable sources than Qumran, and yet we don't change our mesorah on that basis. –  Alex Jun 12 '12 at 17:39
@Alex why is it more reliable? "Our" text of the Gemara was copied the same way our text of Tanach was copied, yet Sofrim were much more careful to copy Tanach accurately than Gemara. So if anything, the text of Tanach from the Gemara is less accurate than it from our Tanach. On the other hand, the Kumran text was a two thousand years fresher than ours, so maybe there weren't as many scribal errors. –  Shmuel Brin Jun 12 '12 at 18:11
@ShmuelBrin: because there are places where the Gemara explicitly says that a word is spelled a certain way. (I'm not talking about places where a verse is simply quoted - you're right, there's no reason to assume that the copyists took any special care with those.) Sanhedrin 4a-b gives several examples, including בסכת בסכת בסכות הרי כאן ארבע - our Sifrei Torah have all three written בסכת; and קרנות קרנת קרנת הרי כאן ארבע, where again our Sifrei Torah have all of them chaser. –  Alex Jun 12 '12 at 18:59
The article from Gil Student, brought in judaism.stackexchange.com/a/11294/603, discusses the Qumran texts in relation to our Mesorah. –  Menachem Jun 12 '12 at 21:58
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It doesn't seem logical that we should be able to use these kinds of things alone as evidence against a mesorah, because there were deniers of our mesora back then just as there were today. It's not like Judaism was monolithic in those days either. You had the Pharisees (Perushim), Sadducees (Tzedukim), the Essenes (possibly the Baysusim/Boethusians), and a couple of smaller sects, and not to mention the early Christians when they came around. As for the stuff buried at Qumran in particular, I have no idea whether or not this is the accepted view among historians, but I heard a recording of a speech by Rabbi Shmuel Irons in which he posited that it was a geniza of the Essenes. If that is the case then it obviously cannot be expected to be necessarily reflective of our mesorah, nor would it pose any problems on that basis.

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Dov, I'm a fan of R' Irons' and his historical Torah tapes. However, the Essenes theory is now largely no longer assumed to be correct. –  Seth J Jun 12 '12 at 18:06
Interesting. But is it established that the stuff is from the Pharisees? Because if not, my point still stands. –  Dov F Jun 12 '12 at 18:11
I don't think so. My question may actually be unanswerable until such time as archaeologists (or Mashiaḥ) can confirm definitively who put them there and why. But in any case, your point stands on its own and is one of the reasons for my question. –  Seth J Jun 12 '12 at 18:13
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