(Larry Hurtado) I found Daniel Falk’s (University of Oregon) presention yesterday (in a special CSCO session) very interesting in a number of points. One of these was some of the manuscripts data he provided. By his count, 131 of the ca. 930 manuscripts from the Dead Sea sites are papyrus, which = ca. 14% (the remaining ones skin). Of the papyrus mss, ca. 50% are poetic and/or “community rule” texts. By comparison, only about 1% of the papyrus mss contain biblical texts. This confirms the ancient Jewish preference for manuscripts of skin for biblical texts.
Falk also counts some 21 “opisthographs” (i.e., re-used scrolls, with a new text written on the outer side of the roll), 14 of which are papyrus, and 7 of them containing prayer texts. As Falk judged, these opisthographs were likely copies for individuals, showing an interest among some to have personal copies of these texts.
All this gives us yet another snapshot of the use of ancient texts, this snapshot very much based on artifactual evidence.