The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Pelican) Paperback – 19 Nov 1987
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About the Author
Geza Vermes is Professor Emeritus of Jewish Studies, University of Oxford, UK. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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He wrote in the Introduction to this 1962 book, “The books and articles written on this subject… in the main have been highly technical and therefore accessible only to the specialist. The present work gives the actual text of the non-biblical religious writings, so to a large extent the reader will now be able to judge them for himself… In the following pages I have nowhere applied the term ‘Essenism’ to this community… it has been my intention to allow the Scrolls to speak for themselves… Essenism is dead. The brittle structure of its stiff and exclusive organization was unable to withstand the national catastrophe which struck Palestinian Judaism in A.D. 70… it lacked the pliant strength which enabled orthodox Judaism to survive. And although its Teacher of Righteousness clearly sensed the deeper obligations implicit in the Mosaic Law, he was without the genius of Jesus who laid bare the inner core of spiritual truth and exposed the essence of religion as an existential relationship between man and man, and between man and God.”
He notes, “the Community Rule (III, v) refers also to a purificatory rite in connexion with entry into the Covenant. This seems to have been a peculiar and solemn act similar to Christian baptism, and to have symbolized purification by the ‘spirit of holiness.’” (Pg. 45) Of their Common Meal, he says, “It may be assumed from the similarity between the Meal and the Messianic Banquet that the former was believed to be a ritual anticipation of the latter. This being so, the Meal was a liturgical drama expressing the participants’ ardent hope of sharing in the great Communion Supper of the Messianic triumph. Such a banquet is foretold in the Book of Isaiah (xxv, 6) and is alluded to in the New Testament when, during the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles that he will not drink wine again ‘until the say when I drink it new with you in my Father’s house.” (Mt 26:29) (Pg. 47)
The rules for the Meal are described in the Scrolls: “And [when] they shall gather for the common [tab]le, to eat and [to drink] new wine, when the common table shall be set for eating and the new wine [poured] for drinking, let no man extend his hand over the first-fruits of bread and wine before the Priest; for [it is he] who shall bless the first-fruits of bread and wine, and shall be the first [to extend] his hand over the bread. Thereafter, the Messiah of Israel shall extend his hand over the bread, [and] all the Congregation of the Community [shall utter a] blessing, [each man in the order] of his dignity.” (Pg. 121)
Of course, in 1991 the Biblical Archaeology Society was able to publish the complete "Facsimile Edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls," so Vermes’ publication has been in a sense superseded. But his commentaries on the documents are still well worth serious study by students of Judaism and early Christianity.