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The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Kindle Edition
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This particular volume on the Dead Sea Scrolls touches on one of my areas of interest that I have been following for over a quarter of a century (and it pains me to realise that I am indeed old enough to have areas of study that reach back that far). When I first encountered information about the scrolls, one controversy about them was over ownership rights and publication rights - there were conspiracy theories about why the scrolls were being withheld, and no such thing as a complete volume of the scrolls. These issues are included in Timothy Lim's text, as that story has become part of the history of the scrolls.
Lim also addresses the role of the Dead Sea Scrolls as a cultural icon: 'Many people have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but few know what they are or the significance they have for our understanding of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible, ancient Judaism, and the origins of Christianity.' The scrolls have been a media sensation for what they are more so than for what they contain; the location where they were found (a mysterious place, the Dead Sea, the site of ancient battles and settlements, and a place that is still in turmoil today) also played a part of in the mystery of the scrolls, as did the Catholic-dominated scholarly team that worked on the translations and reconstruction for so long (conspiracy theories still resonate in works such as the Da Vinci Code).Read more ›
Such avoidance of hyperbole might sound unexciting. Certainly, discussion of copyright law, or the torturous history of Second Temple Judaism might seem as arid as the desert sands, but there should be enough to engage the mind. There are no cheap, Dan Brownesque Vatican conspiracies exposed or major scriptural revelations announced. Yet in terms of the light shed on the early scribes and scriptures, on the archaeology of Qumran, on modern scholarly practice and on a unique period of human history, there are revelations and controversies enough.
Lim offers an insight into the religious life of one of the ancient world's great sects, the extremely ascetic Essenes. It was intriguing to learn that Jewish demotic was Aramaic, not Hebrew, during the Persian period. And that the Essenes may well have had scriptoria, like medieval monks, in which to copy their scriptures. I've also learnt a new word: 'parablepsis', a phenomenon whereby the eye skips a line or a phrase when copying - a mistake we've all made, but an especially taxing one when ancient scribes commit the error.Read more ›
I enjoyed this book I picked up at the British Museum. For those with only a sketchy notion of the scrolls and their significance this is ideal and it gives suggestions for further reading if you want more. Conspiracy theories are neatly dismissed. There seems little quesion the scrolls are linked with the Essene sect (although this is disputed by some) but it did seem that most of the book was taken up with discussion of the Essenes rather than the scrolls themselves. This didn't spoil things and my brief title sums it up.
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