The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls: V.1, Scripture and the Scrolls edited by J.H. Charlesworth (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006). (Logos Edition)

The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Logos Edition

Previously, I have reviewed Wise, et al., The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation as this volume functions within Logos Bible Software. Also, I have discussed how books about the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) integrate with other DSS related modules, like the Sectarian Manuscripts and the Biblical DSS (for a summary of these tools see Brian W. Davidson, “DSS Software: Available Texts”). In that most recent post I mentioned that I would be reviewing the three volume The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls series edited by James H. Charlesworth. These volumes derive from the Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins. Each volume examines the DSS as these documents relate to other fields of study.

Message of the Book:

Volume 1 is a collection of papers examining how the DSS shed new light on our understanding of the evolution of the Hebrew Scriptures. Some essays revisit the idea of a “standard” or “canonized” group of texts. Does our modern Hebrew Bible and/or Old Testament canon reflect “normative” Judaism in the first century BCE into the first century CE or should our understanding of authoritative texts be a bit more fluid acknowledging the many “Judaisms” (rather than Judaism) of the era? Other essays study what some call the “rewritten Bible”. When we see textual variations in the DSS from our later established Masoretic Text (MT) does this show us that people were editing and changing what were basically standard documents or do we need to entertain the idea that many biblical texts weren’t settled at various points. Again, both of these discussions force scholars to address how static and how fluid a text may have been back then. A few essays make particular books their subject. Finally, there are essays that try to reconstruct what the DSS tell us about the formation of the community at Qumran, their raison d’être, and their theological worldview. 

Summary of Content:

Charlesworth’s introductory essay “The Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Discovery and Challenge to Biblical Studies” catches readers up to speed on the evolution of this field of study. Similarly, Chapter 1 (“The Impact of the Judean Desert Scrolls on Issues of Text and the Canon of the Hebrew Bible”) by James A. Sanders and Chapter 2 (“Qumran and the Enoch Groups: Revisiting the Enochic-Essene Hypothesis”)  by Gabriele Boccaccini are “big picture” presentations. Sanders looks at how the DSS have changed our understanding of what might be considered biblical texts challenging DSS scholars to avoid anachronistic terminology that favors the later idea of an established canon. Boccaccini attempts to reconstruct a narrative wherein the Qumran community formed as the result of split within Enochic (rather than Zadokite) Judaism resulting in a group that followed the mysterious Teacher of Righteousness figure and his interpretation of Scripture and the signs of apocalypse. Other essays that reconstruct the history of the community include Chapter 9 (“Three Sobriquets, Their Meaning and Function: The Wicked Priest, Synagogue of Satan, and the Woman Jezebel”) by Hakan Bengtsson, Chapter 10 (“The Biblical and Qumranic Concept of War”) by Philip R. Davies, and Chapter 13 (“”Biblical Interpretation at Qumran”) by George J. Brooke.

Those essays that address the evolution of biblical texts and the idea of canonization include Chapter 3 (“The Biblical Scrolls from Qumran and the Canonical Text”) by Frank Moore Cross, Chapter 4 (“The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hebrew Scriptural Texts”) by Eugene C. Ulrich, Chapter 6 (“The Rewritten Bible at Qumran”) by Sidnie White Crawford, and Chapter 8 (“4QSAMa [= 4Q51], the Canon, and the Community of Lay Readers”) by Donald W. Parry.

Chapter 7 (“Quman and a New Edition of the Hebrew Bible”) by Ronald S. Hendel invites readers to observe how the DSS impact modern version of the Hebrew Bible as editors ask whether the DSS inform our understanding of the earliest texts. Also, Hendel shows how the DSS shed further light of the LXX and Samaritan Pentateuch as these versions relate to what has become the standard Hebrew Bible.

Essays that discuss particular books include Chapter 5 (“The Formation and Re-Formation of Daniel in the Dead Sea Scrolls”) by Loren T. Struckenbruck, Chapter 11 (“The Psalms and Psalters in the Dead Sea Scrolls”) by Peter W. Flint, and Chapter 12 (“The Importance of Isaiah at Qumran”) by J.J.M. Roberts.

Concluding Thoughts:

This volume is an exceptional resource for those wanting to know how the DSS impact our understanding of the Hebrew Bible’s evolution. It is not the sort of book you need to read from front to end. Rather, it is a valuable reference to have available. When it is part of a program like Logos Bible Software is becomes even more valuable since Logos makes it easier to do searches. If you want to find essays on the Book of Daniel in the DSS it is one thing to flip through several physical copies of books like this one and something altogether different to enter a search term to find what you need. There is no doubt that integrating books like these into Logos will quicken your research.

In the next few weeks I will be reviewing V. 2 and V. 3 as well.

This book was provided for free in exchanged for an unbiased review.