For a couple years now The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation by Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg Jr., and Edward M. Cook has been my most frequently used resource for studying the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). Alongside Geza Vermes The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English it may be the most accessible English language resource for the study of the scrolls. Unfortunately, both Wise, et al., and Vermes do not provide strong topical indexes, which has made it difficult to search across the scrolls on a single topic. Both books provide indexes that help you search for a particular scroll or fragment, but not a particular subject like “spirit,” “messiah,” or something else.
Logos Software graciously gave me a copy to review when I expressed interest in seeing how a digital version of Wise, et al., might enhance my study. This review focuses upon the uniqueness of the digital version. Of course, this version is based on the print version, so there are many similarities. For example, the table of contents is the same, but being able to quickly scroll down to a particular text makes things much easier, especially when one considers that the print version is a fairly large book. Readability is as good as the print version, depending upon whether you’d prefer to read from a computer or paper.
As with the print version each work (or collection of related works) receives a summary from the editors (as seen in the screen shot above). What makes the online version even better than the print is the ability to search on a topic, which is why I wanted to have a digital copy, as I stated above. Here is an example of my search on “spirit.” In the first screen shot I am going to select “Search Entire Library.” Notice in the second screen shot how the scroll bar is filled with orange lines. Those lines are places where “spirit” is to be found in the book.
Now, I can go to a location along the scroll bar, or move line by line. When I do this I find the word highlighted.
This makes my search go far faster than if I had to read through the whole book highlighting key words! Prior to getting a digital version that is exactly what I had to do. It made finding references on “spirit” take not merely minutes or hours longer, but days.
For more serious study Logos Software offers two digital scrolls packages, one of the biblical texts and one of the sectarian texts. I have the sectarian texts, so this is what it looks like when I want to peak at the Hebrew used by the translators. Here I am comparing a section on the two spirits from 1QS 3:18.
As you can see, I’ve hightlighted the sections talking about ruach and my search highlights the translation “spirit” (though I can highlight them myself as well). Of course, there is one weakness: ruach isn’t always translated “spirit,” so all this shows the reader is where Wise, et al., have chosen to translate it “spirit.” Related searches for words like “wind” and “breath” in the English translation should help the reader find all the ruach references.
Wise, et al., have produced one of the most trustworthy English translations of the scrolls. Logos has continues to make the DSS accessible both to English readers and to students and scholars who might not have easy access to print facsimiles of the DSS.
Also, for next time, I received a review copy of the three volume set The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by James H. Charlesworth. I will be testing it, seeing how it might integrate with these other resources, and then I’ll write a similar review.
If you have both the English translation, and the digital DSS, and you’ve found some tricks or shortcuts that quicken your study of the DSS please share in the comments! Or, if you’d like me to test something let me know and I’ll give it a try.
This book was provided for free in exchanged for an unbiased review.