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A fully revised and updated edition of our translation of the complete Dead Sea Scrolls, making it the definitive translation of the Scrolls in English.
With new texts, updated introductions, a glossary of terms, and other new additions, this will become the definitive translation of the Scrolls, and the lead companion to our other Dead Sea Scrolls Guides: The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Dead Sea Scrolls Bible.
In order to read a Dead Sea Scroll with proper appreciation and a modicum of critical acumen, it's important to know what you are reading. That may seem trite, but it's true. How does one go from a hugger-mugger of over 15,000 tiny scraps of skin and ink to about 900 full-blown manuscripts, and from there to published texts and translations? You should have some idea of the various steps involved in the process. Only then can you begin to think for yourself about what you will be reading in the following pages. Understanding the process by which the scrolls have been put together will help you to avoid the reader's cardinal sin -- trusting an author too much. If we have certain ideas to present, we want you to be persuaded, not simply take our word for it. We want you to know just how much reconstructing the scrolls can be a matter of judgment (possibly mistaken) and uncertainty. We also want you to be able to make sense of the various sigla, brackets, and other paraphernalia that decorate the translations in this book.
As noted in the Introduction, the first seven Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered more or less intact. That can be said of very few of the hundreds of works that came to light subsequently. The early members of the scrolls editorial team found themselves facing an enormously complex jigsaw puzzle. After a short time, they worked out a modus operandi. Thousands of fragments were spread out on the tables of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, flattened under glass. The editors would walk from table to table, scrutinizing the fragments and trying to match them with this or that grouping they had already isolated. One of the editors, John Allegro, has described the guiding principle of those early efforts:
One of the saving factors has been that of the four hundred [later, eight hundred] or so manuscripts we have had to deal with, surprisingly few were written by the same scribe, so that by recognizing the idiosyncrasies of one's own scribes one could be fairly sure that the piece belonged to his document.
Handwriting was thus the foremost criterion that the editors used to separate fragments into piles and then into manuscripts. A second important guide was the skin on which the texts were inscribed. The treated hides of goats, ibex, and even gazelle used for the scrolls are not uniform in thickness or color. Each skin is, so to speak, its own animal: one might be thick, another thin; one might have a reddish cast, another could be nearly black. Study of the differences in the skins was therefore important for figuring out how to group fragments. But the skins could sometimes be misleading. Though they might have been uniform shortly after they were first placed in the caves, when they came out of the caves as manuscript fragments, they could differ markedly in appearance. The reason: the variable conditions in which they had spent the past two millennia. Some fragments were exposed to more light than others, some to more moisture or a different soil chemistry. Still, in general, handwriting and the appearance of the skins were reasonably trustworthy as dual criteria guiding the early work of separating out scrolls. For the hundred or so texts written not on skin, but on papyrus, scrutiny of the patterns of the plant fibers in the papyrus helped in the separating.
Work on proper identification of the fragments continues to this day. Although the early editors did their work of sorting admirably well, they were not infallible. Sometimes they made mistakes; in fact, we suggest a few that we think we've caught in the pages that follow (for example, see Assorted Manuscripts, text 121). Scholars continue to assess older conclusions. Advancing technology holds the promise of new approaches, although, since in most cases there is little doubt about the sorting, help will come mostly "at the margins." In this vein, researchers at Brigham Young University have recently begun to extract DNA from some of the fragments. Extraction does minimal damage to the materials, and DNA analysis makes it possible to identify the individual animal from which each fragment came. Where there is some question about a given fragment, or where fragments have never been assigned to any manuscript (there is a fairly sizable group of such pieces, all extremely tiny), this new approach may accomplish a modest breakthrough.
Once the early editors had grouped the fragments of a given manuscript together on one or more plates, they had photographs taken. Also, each manuscript was assigned a "Q-number," indicating which cave it had come from. For example, 4Q242 means Cave 4 of Q(umran), the 242nd manuscript from that cave. (This system did not yet exist when the first seven scrolls were discovered, so they have no number. They are designated by abbreviations of their names; e.g., 1QS means: Cave 1 of Q(umran), Serek [Hebrew for "order"].) As work progressed and new fragments were identified, or it became clear that questionable assignments were in fact mistaken and fragments were removed, the shape of a given manuscript changed, and new photographs were taken. Today we can study the entire sequence of photographs for each manuscript. For the most part, these photographs were taken under infrared light. Time had so blackened many of the fragments that the writing on them was nearly invisible to the naked eye. Infrared photography rendered the invisible visible. The use of infrared explains why you seldom see color photographs of the more fragmentary manuscripts; in the 1950s, color infrared photography was not yet possible (now it is).
Because these photographs were usually so much more legible than the manuscripts themselves, the early editors worked mostly with the photographs, and subsequent scholars have continued this practice. Autopsy of the original manuscript is still important, for it can resolve uncertainties (is this odd mark ink or just a spot on the skin?), but research on . . .
Excerpted from The Dead Sea Scrolls - Revised Edition by Michael Wise Copyright © 2005 by Michael Wise.
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Posted August 1, 2009
as a lay student of history and theology, this book is an essential find. The authors notes are especially helpful in understanding the reading format of the book. This book definitely is not an over night quick read, I have found it best read as a research library book for the many other books on my book shelf. The efforts of the many scholars, from the original scroll find to the publication of this book will come out when the reading begins.
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Posted October 4, 2003
Today, the Continuity of the Ancient Times. If we pretend observe-analize Portugal as a Catholic country and try to understand it from that point of view, we only walk inside into a STORM (in the) VOID. If we want to understand the Portuguese Popular Culture based only on a semith and particularizing, a hebrew culture... we only go in-side of a STORM (in the) VOID. If we pretend understand the catholicism of Fatima we are already inner a STORM (in the) VOID... and the same happens with and in all sanctuaries or churches of that small - but enormously in tradictions -, country: Portugal. In agreement with mathemathical analizis of integral (or primitive) and derivation (periphery), I began dividing the big urban centers of this country, that means, the people who belongs there for generations (integral) and non-identificated (derivated), concluding that the last ones after a few years are inside a local ritual more quickly that the first ones... only they don't know how the things works - we can call them the converted or the desperated ones. Happens with foreign people who goes to portuguese sancthuaryes, churches or chapels never knewing what type of ritual is rolling on, assuming that they are catholics ryths but enable to undertand that are popular portuguese Seers executing them for the good or for the worst. Pagan ryths have been continuing display inside catholic ryths and here is the importance of my study because if one ancient culture like that has the elasticity to melt with a 'new' system like the Two Milenium Catholic Church, needs to has much more centurys of existance. For this I have discovered and constructed and quite accurate division of Portugal which pratically is the same of the provincies of Portugal. For example, Trás-os-Montes (northest of the country) has not the same identities than Minho (Northoest of Portugal- border to Trás-os-Montes) because if the first has the sun like the Supreme Spirit - and the ancient techologie was built on sun clocks out of the original ways, like gigantesc statues of a human beeing with an arm pointing but without the hand (S. Simon clock) -, Minho has the celtic cult of the flowers that envolves all the catholics demontrations using them like tapestries for quilometres and quilometres of distance. Beira Alta and Beira Baixa (interior center of the country),has the moon rituals of the breads with the astonished and hipnothic sound of the 'tabuleiros' - a big square instrument of percussion. The cult of this northest provincies are tipical Celtic-Gaelic but Alto and Baixo Alentejo are tipically Visigotic covering northest Algarve through Sagres... that is the unique region covered with Estelas (stones with visigotic inscriptions). The main caracteristics of the South of Portugal are based in the fact they never speak, they never discuss it even look they don't care about God. It's the region were Catholic Church could not penetrate ever. The rest of Algarve is a little more complicated because of the strong and recent arabian-muslim influence, but by the use of the etnologhic terms and music, like povoation names we have here a large open door. Finally, we can generalise (without mistake) that all ocidental portuguese cost (even Algarve) have been influenced by Micenian and Semiths, the last ones with hindu slaves... we are speaking beetween 1800-1600 b.c. At this time we arrive to a point in which the Roman influence only exists at Portugal because of Catholic Church impositions, which the vulgar people never cared; for example during the mass the catholic priest says «Dominus vobiscum!» and the popular folks answered knowing well latim «Et cum spírito 'do O'». Looking to that seems only a little mistake if one of the principal virgins wasn't the Virgin of the O. Finalising for now - and if my text is important for You -, I have a lot to say and a lot exposed in books too, about the monarquic history and its relation to the Catholic Church of Portugal - that is
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Posted November 4, 2010
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Posted June 20, 2010
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