The Mysterious Multilingual Code of an Ancient Guide to Reading Souls

April 3, 2024 | Israel Hayom
About the author:

Even those who don’t read Hebrew know that, like Arabic, it is read from right to left. But not so the Hebrew in an unusual Dead Sea Scroll, which scholars believe belonged to members of a long-vanished Jewish sect. Israel Hayom reports:

Written in Hebrew from left to right, an unusual direction, the scroll includes Greek, Aramaic, and ancient Hebrew scripts, along with coded messages. Oren Ableman, a curator-researcher with the Judaean Desert Scrolls Unit [of the Israel Antiquities Authority], suggests that the scroll’s writing style was intended for a select audience, likely the sect’s leadership.

The scroll presents a worldview in which a person’s birth date influences his physical traits and the balance of light and darkness in his soul. Each date is associated with specific levels of these qualities, affecting individuals born on those dates. According to Ableman, the scroll might have been used as part of an initiation process for new members of the community, who referred to themselves as “sons of light.” Prospective members were evaluated based on their birth date and physical characteristics, such as head shape, to determine their suitability.

Jim Davila, a scholar of this era, describes the scroll as “a physiognomic tractate, a work that claims to deduce what a person is like on the basis of . . . physical characteristics (length of fingers and toes, eye color, height, voice, etc.),” and notes that similar works “circulated in Hebrew in the Middle Ages.”

Read more on Israel Hayom: