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>"scriptorum" is part of the old "monastery" metaphor, a metaphor based on
>ideas about the middle ages when scriptorums were definitely in use.
>However, a typical image of a scribe that comes from the middle east is of a
>person sitting on the ground with legs crossed, definitely not of the mold
>of the so-called writing desks found at Qumran.
>I'd guess that writing desks came into vogue after pages did.
For me it is still of interest to consider the idea of an organized
community which has not only an elaborated theory about the study of
writings, but also an extensive production and reproduction of manuscripts
(exceptional are still the 5 (or 6?) ink-wells and the library with multiple
copies)! - Even if the monastic term "scriptorium" and its connotations
should be avoided, the picture of scribes ("sitting on the ground with legs
crossed") alone is misleading. Try for example to glue 15 sheets of paper in
a row of 5 meters - in such a way that they are really in a line. After
rolling this should produce a scroll with exact edges which will not be
destroyed by uneveness. - This example would show what could be the use of
the "tables" in Qumran. This is an idea of H. Stegemann in his german book
"Die Essener ..." (ISBN 3-451-04128-6; 4th ed. 1994), where he depicts the
settlement as a sort of publishing house. Even if the whole (p. 77-82)
exceeds the evidence, the interpration of the "scriptorium" and the "tables"
are not so bad...
If we try to avoid the monastic metaphor "scriptorium", we
nevertheless need an idea to interpret the building in its jewish context.
My imagination, that people who took over temple practices (customs of
purity, prayers, special meals, entry into the covenant ~Dtn 29~ etc.) and
organized themselves in local "Essene"-communities probably took over things
we must suggest to have existed at the Jerusalem temple: The production of
scrolls ... But in this way we would transport perhaps a picture of a
central "school of scribes" (cmp. the scribes in Chronicles e.g.) which is
suggestive and widespread, but which lacks evidence.
Perhaps this was a little too long, but helpful ?!
(University of Hamburg)