The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls

By VanderKam, James & Flint, Peter
HarperSanFrancisco: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
10 East 53rd St., New York, N.Y. l0022.
2002. 467 pp., $34.95. ISBN 0-06-068464-X

Subtitled, “Their Significance for Understanding the Bible, Judaism, Jesus, and Christianity,” this book is a superb gathering of the relevant data in five sections, re the Discoveries, Dating, Archeology, and New Methods: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Scripture: The Non-biblical Scrolls and Their Message: The Scrolls and the New Testament; and finally, Controversies About the Dead Sea Scrolls—all given full and very readable treatment in 18 chapters and 4 Appendixes.

The Foreword is by Emanuel Tov, Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project and this book is highly acclaimed by James Sanders, President of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center, and James H. Charlesworth, Editor of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project. VanderKam and Flint are unmistakably two of the world’s most eminent Scrolls scholars with the commendable ability to write a comprehensive and detailed account of what the scrolls really say, all the while judiciously including a wide variety of views, including those with which they disagree. There seems to he nothing they haven’t read and considered and their discreet description of the controversies is outstanding.

The authors are in touch with the average lay reader even when they often provide a perspective and a presentation of data that may he unknown even to experts in Qumranology. In the chapter on The Scrolls and the Canon of the Hebrew/Old Testament, the authors pause, for example, to say that the reader must remember that different canons of Scripture exist “and that…we explore these canons in relation to the Dead Sea Scrolls without trying to prove which canon is ‘right’ and which ones are ‘wrong.’”

The book contains a variety of’ boxed paragraphs, distributed throughout the book, in the appropriate places labeled by such titles as Profiles, Technical Details, Boxes, Tables, and Figures, all contributing to the usefulness and clarification of the book’s content.

Freedman, endowed chair in Hebrew Biblical Studies of the University of California, declares, “This may well he the best book on…(this) vitally stimulating subject.” This up-to-date guide is the definitive introduction to all aspects of the scrolls, including their teachings, the community that created and preserved them, the world of Judaism, the origins of Christianity, our understanding of Jesus, and the New Testament.

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