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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reprint edition (1 Oct. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060684658
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060684655
  • Product Dimensions: 18.7 x 3 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 133,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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THE STORY OF THE DISCOVERY of the first Dead Sea Scrolls has become a part of Western lore. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 30 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
James Vanderkam and Peter Flint are names well-known to those who follow the scrolls. Each has contributed their own work in book and article form to the body of literature about the Dead Sea Scrolls. This volume, 'The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity' is one of the most comprehensive, in-depth and well-organised introductions and overviews of the scrolls done to date. Published just a few years ago, it takes into consideration all but the very latest of scroll research and publication. As Emmanuel Tov, another name well known to scroll aficionados, states in the foreword, the publication of information about the scrolls has proceeded so rapidly during the past decade that it has become necessary for a new volume such as this to provide an adequate introduction to the scrolls.
In the first part, Vanderkam and Flint give an overview of the discovery and identification of the scrolls. This includes discussion of the acquisitions and explorations, the dating processes, and the archaeological digs around the site at Qumran. The authors also discuss the use of technology in the processes around the Dead Sea Scrolls; processes such as Carbon-14 dating were in their infancy during the time the scrolls were first discovered - both technology and scroll knowledge have come a long way in the past 55 years.
The second section looks at the relationship of the scrolls to scripture. The chapters here look almost exclusively at the Hebrew Bible; questions regarding the New Testament are reserved for a later section. The scrolls contained at least some portions of every text of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament save (perhaps) Esther; there are also apocryphal and pseudipigraphical texts among the scrolls.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 17 reviews
70 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Comprehensive introduction 8 July 2003
By Mark Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is the first book I've ever read on the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). I got the book after reading a history of paper and thought knowing more about this famous treasure trove of ancient scrolls would make interesting reading. I was not disappointed.
The book is nothing if not comprehensive and inclusive. Vanderkam teaches theology at Notre Dame and Flint is co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in British Columbia. Together, they have produced a comprehensive and easy to read introduction to the subject. They discuss the evidence and the controversies. It is not a didactic tract seeking to make converts, though. If you want an more emotional or intuitive experience of the words written down so long ago, a different text might be appropriate.
It starts with the discovery of the scrolls near Khirbet Qumran, tracing the various Bedouins, art dealers and scholars who identified the scrolls and brought them to world wide attention. We are then treated to a history of 'digs' near the discovery caves and a tentative outline of what we know from the physical evidence. This history includes the rather sad story of scroll deterioration since discovery.
With the physical evidence covered, the authors turn to a detailed review of what we think the scrolls actually say. Scholars think that most of the material represents copies of ancient text that served as 'source' for existent copies, the earliest of which was created about 400 AD. Thus, all our traditional texts are relatively recent copies. In contrast, the DSS were created between 150 BC and 68 AD, 500 years earlier. In essence, the DSS provide a way to 'check' on Jewish, Samaritan and Christian traditions for copying their theological references.
The next section reviews what we know about the 'community' responsible for the scrolls. At this point, the book becomes consciously speculative. The scrolls don't include a tour guide, so we really don't know who copied/wrote all this stuff. The most popular theory involves the Essenes, but the authors are careful to give voice to all the extant theories.
Finally, the book concludes with a review of implications (if any) on how scholars think the DSS relate to the Christian New Testament. The list includes theories the authors dismiss, but they do a good job of putting each theory in the best light possible. The book if nothing, if not inclusive.
"The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls" will enrich your understanding of all ancient texts. There are no cataclysmic revelations, just a filling in of a few blanks, corrections for a few mistaken verse translations and confirmation of translation for others. For me, it simply authenticates New Testament writings. One doesn't have to take the New Testament commentary as gospel, but it definitely looks like an authentic product of the era between 25 - 100 AD.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Worthy of a Scholar 14 Jun. 2003
By Virgil Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book VanderKam and Flint present an in-depth survey of the Dead Sea Scrolls with many insights making the book worthy enough of a scholar to read, or in another sense, worthy of the two scholars who wrote it.

The book begins with the discovery, dating, and preservation of the DSS. The archaeological work of de Vaux is well spoken of, but V and F point out his dating may need some adjustment. The site may not have been occupied until the 1st century BCE. There may have been no 30 year gap between Periods I and II. And Yaakov Mosherer (more of his work on coins ought to be read) points out that coins from years four and five of the Revolt are rarer, so there is no need to posit that Qumran was destroyed before 73 BCE.

In their survey of the DSS and Scripture, V and F mention that Psalm 145 is an acrostic poem with a verse missing. For those who do not know, an acrostic poem is one in which the successive verses begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In the Masoretic Text and English versions based upon it, Psalm 145 skips the "nun" verse which would occur right after verse 13 in English versions. One of the DSS texts contains the missing verse. The verse from 11QPsA may be translated "God is faithful in his words and gracious in all his deeds."

One will want to grab her/his favorite version of the DSS texts as he makes his way through the sections on the non-biblical texts. There is no text of the Book of Esther among the DSS. However there is a *proto-Esther* to be found. The fragments known as 4Q550 clearly show similarities with the Book of Esther though the same story is not told. For all of the scrolls found among the DSS, one might get the impression that the library was comprehensive. Actually it was not. Works such as the Wisdom of Solomon and other Jewish Greek works are absent. Also notably absent is the pro-Hasmonean 1 Maccabees.
Most readers will pay avid attention to Part Four of the book on the relationship of the DSS to the New Testament. Dispelled are the theories of O'Callaghan, Allegro, and others. The connections between the DSS and the NT are generally nuanced. 4Q521 supports the idea that Jesus saw himself as Israel's Messiah. However Luke 7.21-22 is not a direct quote of 4Q521. Rather it shows that Jesus adopted an extant manner of speaking and gave it his own spin. Common to nowhere else in ancient writings than in 4QMMT and the Pauline writings is the
phrase "works of the law." Because of 4QMMT some scholars are rethinking the traditional Protestant thinking of the use of the phrase in Paul.
The last section is on controversies surrounding the DSS. The recent availability of the DSS in such books as Abegg's _DSS Bible_ and Garcia Martinez's _DSS Translated_ have made us forget that once upon a time Solomon Zeitlin wrote a series of articles in which he claimed the DSS were medieval documents. More recently was the lawsuit by Qimron against Shanks. This section is followed by four appendices one of which is a bibliography of translations and editions of the DSS.
In sum VanderKam and Flint have written a very thorough and very readable survey of the DSS. It is surely worthy reading for those of us who like to read and worthy reading for a scholar as well.
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
If you only get one book on the scrolls, this should be it 29 Jun. 2004
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
James Vanderkam and Peter Flint are names well-known to those who follow the scrolls. Each has contributed their own work in book and article form to the body of literature about the Dead Sea Scrolls. This volume, 'The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus and Christianity' is one of the most comprehensive, in-depth and well-organised introductions and overviews of the scrolls done to date. Published just a few years ago, it takes into consideration all but the very latest of scroll research and publication. As Emmanuel Tov, another name well known to scroll aficionados, states in the foreword, the publication of information about the scrolls has proceeded so rapidly during the past decade that it has become necessary for a new volume such as this to provide an adequate introduction to the scrolls.
In the first part, Vanderkam and Flint give an overview of the discovery and identification of the scrolls. This includes discussion of the acquisitions and explorations, the dating processes, and the archaeological digs around the site at Qumran. The authors also discuss the use of technology in the processes around the Dead Sea Scrolls; processes such as Carbon-14 dating were in their infancy during the time the scrolls were first discovered - both technology and scroll knowledge have come a long way in the past 55 years.
The second section looks at the relationship of the scrolls to scripture. The chapters here look almost exclusively at the Hebrew Bible; questions regarding the New Testament are reserved for a later section. The scrolls contained at least some portions of every text of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament save (perhaps) Esther; there are also apocryphal and pseudipigraphical texts among the scrolls. This section shows some of the multi-task use of the book - in discussing the relationship of the scrolls to the canon of scripture, they go into some detail about what is meant by the use of the term 'canonical', and what constitutes the canon of scripture for the Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox bibles. This makes this an excellent text book for biblical studies classes in addition to a book for the general reader.
The third section surveys the nonbiblical scrolls - phylacteries, commentaries, community documents, and more. In addition to looking at these texts, the authors recreate from them a possible portrait of the community at Qumran, providing of course that one accepts that the scrolls are related to the Qumran site. The authors mention various interpretations at different points, but largely concentrate on the most commonly accepted interpretation, which is that the Qumran group was a part of the Essenes, one of the three primary groups of Judaism identified by Josephus as being present in the late Second Temple period. This section also addresses some of the more interesting characters found within the writing of the scrolls, the Teacher of Righteousness and the Wicked Priest.
The fourth section takes up the issue of relationships between the scrolls and the New Testament. The authors discount the various claims that New Testament fragments have been found among the scrolls, while not ruling out that such discoveries might in fact occur. However, the primary claims have largely been discounted. The connections between Essene thinking and practice and some early Christians, however, is stronger, but not to the extent that Jesus or John the Baptist can be identified as Essenes (or, as is also sometimes speculated, Zealots). The authors take issue with those whose sensational interpretations (Allegro, Thiering, et al.) rest on shaky extrapolations.
The final primary section gives a good account of the controversial history of the scrolls, looking at the governmental politics, the academic politics, the sensational and sometimes outlandish conspiracy theories about the restrictions placed on the scrolls and the content of 'hidden' scrolls, and the long court battle that resulted from the publication by Herschel Shanks and others of a famous 120-line text, 4QMMT, made far more remarkable for the problems of publication than it perhaps ever would be as a part of the larger body of scrolls.
Authors Vanderkam and Flint provide several appendices, including indexes, quotations and allusions, and a good listing of further readings, including translations of the scrolls in book, microfiche and electronic forms. The book has a very generous collection of photographs, charts, graphs, line-art drawings and maps. There are useful highlight boxes and technical detail boxes to focus upon particular important points. The general layout of the book is very nice, easy to read and visually interesting.
A great book!
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
An introduction that does a great job 22 Sept. 2004
By Bill O'Chee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is part introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls, and part overview of the texts and the work done by scholars since their discovery. It is not a detailed academic work, but it doesn't set out to be. It is intended for the intelligent reader to gain a good insight into the scrolls, their history, the significance of the texts, and the work that is being done. In this respect, it achieves its objective.

I like this book because it is possible to pick it up without any great knowledge of paleography or patristics, yet still be able to make sense of it, and gain some perspective at the same time.

If you are interested in finding out about these fascinating texts, and if you want an intelligent yet readable work, this is the book for you.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
For beginners only 5 Aug. 2003
By Richard S. Mitnick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a very thorough presentation of the whole range of material relating to the Scrolls. But the only new information is the explanation of scientific processes used in scroll anaylses.
For a scholar, student, or reader who has already spent time with this subject, this book adds nothing except that scientific material.
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