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The "Dead Sea Scrolls": A Biography (Lives of Great Religious Books) Hardcover – 28 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (28 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691143676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691143675
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 12.4 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,043,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"One could scarcely imagine a better concise guide to the Scrolls that John Collins's The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biograohy. Collins, who teaches at Yale, writes with clarity and liveliness, and throughout his account exercises great judiciousness, a quality that has not always been prominent in discussions of this subject."--Robert Alter, London Review of Books

"This compact book, part of the Lives of Great Religious Books series, is not so much about what the Dead Sea Scrolls are but, rather, how the arguments around them have impacted Christianity, Judaism, and the wider world. Collins writes engagingly about the history of the Scrolls and examines the debates and conclusions that various scholars have put forth about who wrote the Scrolls, what the location of their discovery means, and the way the wide-ranging writings have been used to promote various positions. . . . A solid introduction that offers plenty of information."--Ilene Cooper, Booklist

"This is a very readable description of Dead Sea Scrolls' story, from their discovery at an archaeological site in the West Bank to recent events inspired by them."--Devorah Bennu, GrrlScentist

"[Collins] brings clarity and acuity to a subject that has often attracted myth-makers and special pleaders. . . . [He] also allows us to see that the acrimonious debates about the origin, meaning and significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls are actually quite consequential to any reader who wonders how the Bible itself and the Bible-based religions actually entered the world."--Jonathan Kirsch, Jewish Journal

"Offers insights into the passionate debates that have swirled around [the Dead Sea Scrolls] since their startling discovery. One of the topics he explores is the extent to which they broadly reflect the Judaism of that era."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News

"In his short, sharp, snappy 'biography', [Collins] rehearses all the various theories on the scrolls, separates the wheat from the chaff, and brings light to the darkness. This is not simply a digest. Collins takes our hand and guides us to oh-so-reasonable conclusions."--Peter Stanford, The Independent

"The scrolls have had the experts fighting over them like cats in a sack, but for the rest of us, they are of curiosity value only. . . . These stories of backbiting and backstabbing make Collin's book a feast for the eyes."--Nigel Nelson, Tribune (U.K.)

"The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography is an important contribution because Collins analyzes and summarizes the essence, content and problematic aspects of the Dead Sea Scrolls and their scholars. . . . In today's politicized world of academia, unfortunately, the Jewish context and content of the Scrolls and the site and the Jewish world of Jesus and his disciples must be restated and demonstrated constantly. Accordingly, John Collins' book contributes to debunking fraudulent political claims against the presence of Jews and the very essence of Jewish history and Jewish religion in the Land of Israel."--Rivkah Fishman-Duker, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East

"Collins writes in a clear and precise style. . . . Here he addresses the different interpretations presented by scholars, providing a good summary of historical debate about the Scrolls."--Choice

"This series contains the latest scholarship about a specific subject, gives great opportunity for acquiring a limited but significant amount of knowledge, and enthuses readers to go into it in much more detail."--Charles H. Middleburgh, Charles Middleburgh Blog

"In sum, this is an excellent introduction to a complex subject, lucid and remarkably irenic."--Roger S. Bagnall, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"[A]nyone seeking a short introduction to the Scrolls could do a lot worse than to look in this direction. They will learn an enormous amount quite effortlessly in a small space of time, being thoroughly diverted in the process. They will be assisted by excellent indices and judicious short bibliographies."--Tessa Rajak, Journal of Jewish Studies

"The entire book is skillfully structured to reflect its theme. . . . [Collins] seems particularly at home, and writes with relish and refreshing honesty. . . [Readers] will learn an enormous amount quite effortlessly in a small space of time, being thoroughly diverted in the process."--Tessa Rajak, Journal of Jewish Studies

From the Back Cover

"This is a marvelously readable, informative, and reliable general introduction to everything associated with Qumran, and provides valuable insights into the impact of the scrolls on the Bible, ancient Judaism, and budding Christianity. It is highly recommended as one of the best guides for anyone wishing to approach the greatest Hebrew manuscript discovery of modern times."--Geza Vermes, professor emeritus of Jewish studies, University of Oxford

"This up-to-date and concise handbook introduces readers to profound discussions of theological, historical, and canonical issues, and to the savory details and gossip surrounding the discovery and publication of the scrolls. Written in Collins's original, witty style, the book is a must for anyone who wants to learn about the scrolls, novice and specialist alike."--Emanuel Tov, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, former editor in chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project

"This book is right up to date, and is written by a scholar who has been at the very center of scrolls scholarship for several decades. What sets it apart is Collins's expert and sensible analysis of the theories scholars have crafted about the Dead Sea Scrolls in the sixty-five years since they were first discovered."--James C. VanderKam, author of The Dead Sea Scrolls Today

"This is an excellent introduction to the scrolls and a great read. Collins has a distinctive perspective and voice, and writes lucidly and engagingly. His well-known scholarly judiciousness is everywhere in evidence--a virtue in short supply in some areas of scrolls study. There is no other volume that does quite what this one does."--Philip Alexander, author of The Mystical Texts: Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice and Related Manuscripts

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert Feather on 4 Nov. 2012
Format: Hardcover
The chapter list of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography immediately alerts the reader that there is not going to be much new under the sun in this book, and unfortunately that proves to be the case. We are trundled through The Discovery of the Scrolls, The Essenes, The Site of Qumran, The Scrolls and Christianity, The Scrolls and Judaism, The Scrolls and the Bible, The Battle for the Scrolls, Personalities in the Discovery and Subsequent Controversies, but there is little new information. Apart from some minor spelling mistakes, some details are in fact rather misleading. In chapter 1 we are told a certain Sydney Esteridge (sic) was instrumental in the acquisition of the four scrolls that were advertised in the Wall Street Journal. (The name of Professor Norman Golb's son is also wrongly spelt as Rafael.) A Mr. Sydney M. Estridge was apparently called in by Yadin to authenticate the scrolls, but in fact the funding was provided largely by a New Yorker, D. Samuel Gottesman.

In mentioning the replacement of Strugnell in 1990, he omits to say that the main reason was because of his anti-Semitic views and statements- merely mentioning the event as `an upheaval'. Nor does the author address any of the huge blanks in current understanding of the Scrolls, as dealt with in a new book on Black Holes in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

There is an interesting historical discussion on the origins of the Essenes and the role religious ideologies played in the assessment - something that is still very evident in modern discussions on Dead Sea Scrolls definitions and it would have been interesting if Collins had progressed that issue.

The aim of the book is, according to the author, `to study what difference the Scrolls have made to ancient Judaism and early Christianity'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Askwitn on 14 Mar. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book like Collin's other books on the old testament is clearly written and easy to read but illuminating well worth reading
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By BookBeetle on 9 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Looking for more meat to it, and it gave a slight impression of what was found...but mainly was a valuable pointer to Jewish chronology.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 23 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Excellent overview 22 Dec. 2012
By Dr. Karen M. Gray - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Collins does a particularly good job of handling with remarkable objectivity the many controversial issues related to the scrolls and their interpretation. Where he has an opinion, he is clear in stating that it is his opinion. I was particularly struck by the way in which he addressed John Strugnell's situation. This is the best overview of current scholarship on the DSS that is available to the general public in my opinion.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Good short summary 22 Nov. 2012
By Theology Girl - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent short summary of Dead Sea Scroll research (and politics). The author avoids name-calling, but is straightforward about some of the pitfalls that scholarship has had to overcome in this area.

I doubt if an expert would learn much from this review, but those (like myself) for whom this is a very interesting sideline will enjoy the book and learn a few things, too.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
mostly reliable and readable 10 Nov. 2012
By Stephen Goranson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This "Lives of Great Religious Books" series contribution by one of the Scrolls editors offers a somewhat breezy, journalistic overview, including a few more personal observations than is typical of academic writing. Those observations were, to me, some of the most interesting passages in this book. It's readable and mostly reliable. It rightly notes (p. 33) that, early on, after the first discoveries in the late 1940s, several (including I. Sowmy) independently raised the possible Essene connection, but (p. 34) writes that "it is not clear exactly when Sukenik reached this conclusion." Actually, his son Y. Yadin published excerpts from his diary in the Eretz Israel 8 Sukenik volume (1967), with dates. Coverage of the relevant history of scholarship before 1948 is somewhat hit-or-miss: mentioning Scaliger on Philo but not Conybeare; mentioning some mistaken etymologies of Essene--there are dozens published--but not the likeliest ones, for which, see now J. VanderKam, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Bible (2012) 100-104 (from 'osey hatorah, observers of Torah, a self-designation found in Qumran scrolls, pesharim, recognized as Essene on other grounds; it's also an etymology in effect predicted by several scholars before the Qumran discoveries). Collins recounts several, but surely not all, of the Scrolls controversies. For example, omitted is Yadin's claim that B-Z Wacholder in Dawn of Qumran plagiarized him. There are some misspellings, including Rafael for Raphael Golb. (And the latter was not the first scrolls sockpuppet.) An OK read. (Some pages fell out; the binding--maybe only in this particular copy, and not Collins' responsibility--was substandard.)
Possibly the Best and Most Succinct Book on the Dead Sea Scrolls Written Thus Far 28 April 2013
By classicalsteve - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Collins' book covers two stories. There is the story as portrayed in the scrolls themselves, the history and secrets contained within the fragmented manuscripts. For example within its texts are some of the earliest Jewish writings, stating laws about diets, the clean, and the unclean. Prophecies written 2000 years before Stephen King's "The Stand" chronicle the wars between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. While these texts have been translated in other books, Collins' work also offers a history of the discovery of the scrolls themselves. While most of the general populace believes the texts exist as one large document discovered in one cave at a single moment in time, Collins reveals that many texts resided in many different areas apart from the cave where the first was unearthed, Some ancient manuscripts believed to be related to the texts found in the first cave were in fact hiding in other areas several miles away in some instances. Collins goes on to relate the first scholars who studied the texts, and in particular how Jewish scholars were excluded from examining the manuscripts because of political reasons. These original scholars published their findings and theories about the texts in the late 1950's and early 1960's, some of which have been debunked by contemporary and later scholars. New realizations have been revealed even as late as the 1980's and 1990's. Overall a very enjoyable and insightful look at one of the greatest archeological finds concerning religious literary tradition.
Good Detail Quickly 6 April 2013
By John Allen Chalk - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Collins is an experienced and recognized Old Testament scholar with lots of contact with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Heard him give a private dinner presentation recently in New Haven that summarized the major themes of his new book on the Scrolls. Had already purchased the book but hadn't read it at the time that I heard him in person talk about the Scrolls. The "biography" approach is extremely helpful in presenting the varied history of the Scrolls and in understanding the different custodians of the Scrolls. Of course, there are scrolls and then there are scrolls within the Scrolls that make for highly interesting and intriguing reading. Great book for the first-time student as a survey and the long-time observer with reminders and clearer details about the history of the Scrolls.
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