A new handbook presents both the history and the latest theories regarding the Qumran scrolls
Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010, 785 pp.
What are the Dead Sea Scrolls? Often referred to as the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century, the ancient texts discovered in the caves above Qumran have brought a tremendous amount of information to bear on our understanding of the ancient Biblical world and its customs—and have provoked as many questions. The recent publication The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Timothy Lim and John Collins, proves to be a valuable tool for the newcomer as well as seasoned scholars seeking the history and latest research on the ancient texts of Qumran.
Reviewer Charlotte Hempel suggests that the book’s most impressive accomplishment is that it challenges long-held presuppositions regarding the “boxes” into which we have fit our understanding of these ancient documents and their relationship to Qumran as well as ancient Judaism. This book, according to Hempel, helps us reframe the question “What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?” and informs our modern understanding of ancient Judaism as well as the community that wrote the texts, a community that–at least at one point–must have been present in the environs of Qumran.Hempel points out that this new handbook presents what we already know about the scrolls as well as the latest theories and interpretations of these ancient documents. This makes it an ideal text for those approaching the subject of the scrolls and Qumran for the first time and searching to understand what are the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Hempel also draws attention to the fact that the handbook contains essays that deal specifically with the theories regarding the community who wrote the ancient documents. Whether or not this is the same community that lived in Qumran—and if the Qumran community was Essene—still remains a point of debate. With so much of this ancient library discovered in the caves above Qumran yet to be thoroughly studied, it is only a matter of time before this and other scholarly disputes regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls and their relationship to Qumran are resolved.
This latest publication on the ancient Qumran library provides the reader with all of the most up-to-date information and research. As an introduction to some of the most important ancient texts in the world, The Oxford Handbook of the Dead Sea Scrolls should prove to be an invaluable tool to answer the question “What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?”
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