The Dead Sea Scrolls Today, rev. ed / Edition 2

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This perennially bestselling book on the Dead Sea Scrolls by one of the fields most respected scholars has now been revised and updated to reflect scholarship and debates since the book was first published in 1994.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802864352
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 2/22/2010
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 732,681
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

James C. VanderKam is the John A. O'Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the international team charged with editing and translating the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls.
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Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition xii

Preface to the First Edition xiv

1 Discoveries 1

A Introduction 1

B The Qumran Discoveries 2

1 The First Cave 2

a The Seven Original Scrolls 2

b The Cave Itself 2

2 The Other Caves 13

3 The Ruins of Qumran 20

a The de Vaux Excavations and Interpretations 21

1 The Buildings 21

2 The Cemeteries 25

b Subsequent Studies and Interpretations 26

1 The Buildings 26

2 The Cemeteries 31

4 Methods for Dating the Discoveries 33

a Methods for Dating the Texts 33

1 Paleography 33

2 Accelerator Mass Spectrometry 35

3 Internal Allusions 39

b Methods for Dating the Other Archeological Remains 41

1 Carbon 14 41

2 Pottery 41

3 Coins 41

2 Survey of the Manuscripts 47

A Biblical Texts 47

1 Biblical Scrolls 48

2 Targums 50

3 Tefillin and Mezuzot 51

B Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Texts 52

1 Apocrypha 52

a Tobit 52

b Sirach (Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira) 53

c Letter of Jeremiah (= Baruch 6) 54

d Psalm 151

2 Pseudepigrapha 54

a Enoch or 1 Enoch 55

b Jubilees 57

c Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs 58

d New Pseudepigrapha 60

C Other Texts 61

1 Commentaries on Biblical Material 62

a Continuous Commentaries 62

1 The Habakkuk Commentary (1QpHab) 64

2 The Nahum Commentary (4Q169) 67

3 The Commentary on Psalms (4Q171, 173) 69

b Thematic Commentaries 70

1 Florilegium (4Q174) 70

2 The Testimonia (4Q175) 70

3 The Melchizedek Text (nQMclch) 73

4 A Commentary on Genesis (4Q252) 74

2 Paraphrases 75

3 Legal Texts 75

a The Damascus Document 76

b The Rule of the Community 77

c The Temple Scroll 80

d Some of the Works of the Torah (4QMMT) 81

4 Writings for Worship 83

a The Cycle of Worship 83

1 Liturgical Texts 84

2 Calendrical Texts 85

b Poetic Compositions 86

1 The Thanksgiving Hymns 86

2 Other Poems 87

5 Eschatological Works 88

a The War Rule 88

b Texts about the New Jerusalem 90

6 Wisdom Texts 90

a 4Q184 Wiles of the Wicked Woman 91

b 4Q185 Sapiential Work 91

c Instruction 91

7 The Copper Scroll (3Q15) 92

8 Documentary Texts 93

3 The Identification of the Qumran Group 97

A The Case for the Essene Hypothesis 97

1 The Evidence from Pliny the Elder 97

2 The Contents of the Qumran Texts and Essene Beliefs and Practices 101

a Theology 102

1 Determinism 102

2 The Afterlife 105

b Practice 107

1 Nonuse of Oil 108

2 Property 108

3 The Pure Meal 111

4 Bodily Functions 112

5 Spitting 113

B Problems With the Essene Hypothesis 114

1 Entry Procedures 114

2 Marriage 116

3 The Name Essene 118

C Other Theories 119

1 Sadducees 119

2 Jerusalem Origins 122

4 The Qumran Essenes 127

A A Sketch of the Qumran Group's History 127

1 The Pre-Qumran Period 128

2 The Qumran Period 133

a Phase I 133

b Phase II 136

B A Sketch of Qumran Thought and Practice 137

1 Predeterminism 137

2 The Two Ways 138

3 The Community of the New Covenant 139

4 Scriptural Interpretation 141

a The Latter Days 141

b Special Laws 141

c The Universe 142

5 Worship 144

6 The End and the Messiahs 145

C The Qumran Essenes and Their Place in Judaism 147

5 The Scrolls and the Old Testament 157

A The Text of the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament 157

1 The Period of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament 158

2 The Pre-Qumran Textual Witnesses 159

a The Masoretic Text 159

b The Septuagint 160

c The Samaritan Pentateuch 161

3 Qumran Contributions 162

a The Great Isaiah Scroll 162

b Qumran Agreements with the Septuagint against the Masoretic Text 163

1 Minor Examples 163

2 Major Examples 164

a Jeremiah 164

b Samuel 166

c An Unusual Case 167

d Theories about Textual Development 168

1 A Theory of Local Texts 168

2 A Theory of Textual Plurality and Variety 169

3 Successive Literary Editions 171

B New Information About the History of Some Texts 171

1 The Book of Psalms 172

2 Daniel 4 176

C A Canon of Scripture 178

1 Evidence outside Qumran 178

a The Prologue to Sirach (the Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira) 179

b 2 Mace 2:13-15 181

c Philo, On the Contemplative Life 25 182

d Luke 24:44 182

e Matt 23:35 183

f 4 Ezra 14:23-48 184

g Josephus, Against Apion 1.37-43 185

2 Evidence from Qumran 186

a Criteria

b Authoritative Books 188

1 Books Quoted as Authorities 188

2 Other Authoritative Books 190

a Jubilees 191

b 1 Enoch 192

c The Temple Scroll 193

6 The Scrolls and the New Testament 197

A Introduction 197

B Similarities Between the Scrolls and the New Testament 201

1 Language and Text 201

a Language 201

1 The Many 202

2 The Guardian 203

3 Other Examples 203

b Text 204

1 New Testament Papyri in Cave 7? 204

2 Qumran Words and Phrases in the New Testament 204

3 The Sermon on the Mount 205

2 Characters 206

a John the Baptist 206

b Others 209

3 Practices 210

a Shared Property 210

b The Meal 211

c Calendar 214

4 Eschatology 215

a Messianism 215

b Biblical Interpretation 219

c Teachings 222

C Conclusions 224

7 Controversies about the Dead Sea Scrolls 227

A Editing and Publishing the Scrolls 227

B Events Since 1989 233

Postscript 243

Index 249*******************

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First Chapter

The Dead Sea Scrolls Today

By James C. VanderKam

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2010 James C. VanderKam
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-6435-2

Chapter One



The territory of the modern state of Israel has not proved to be congenial for finding written remains from antiquity. Unlike Egypt and Iraq, where excavations have brought innumerable texts to light, Palestine had produced virtually nothing of the kind until 1947. There were reports that centuries ago manuscripts had been found in the region of Jericho, near the Dead Sea. Origen, the Christian scholar who lived from A.D. 185 to 254, was an acute student of the exact wording of the biblical texts. As an aid to text-critical labors, he compiled an enormous work that included in parallel columns six versions of the entire Old Testament (in Hebrew and in Greek). It is called the Hexapla, or sixfold book. He mentioned that the sixth Greek version of the Psalms that he presented in his Hexapla had been found in a jar around Jericho. In describing the same text, the church historian Eusebius, who lived from about 260 to 340, added in his Ecclesiastical History (6.16.1) that a Greek version of the Psalms and other Greek and Hebrew manuscripts had been found in a jar at Jericho during the reign of the Roman emperor Caracalla (Antoninus; reigned 211-17). Later, in approximately the year 800, the Nestorian patriarch of Seleucia, Timotheus I (727-819), wrote a letter to Sergius (who died about 805), the metropolitan (a position like that of an archbishop) of Elam. In it he noted:

We have learnt from trustworthy Jews who were then being instructed as catechumens in the Christian religion that some books were found ten years ago in a rock-dwelling near Jericho. The story was that the dog of an Arab out hunting, while in pursuit of game, went into a cave and did not come out again; its owner went in after it and found a chamber, in which there were many books, in the rock. The hunter went off to Jerusalem and told his story to the Jews, who came out in great numbers and found books of the Old Testament and others in the Hebrew script.

The patriarch goes on to tell how he asked an expert whether passages that in the New Testament are considered quotations from the Old Testament but cannot be found in existing copies of Israel's scriptures were present in these manuscripts. He was assured that they were indeed there, but his attempt to obtain more information on this point failed. The Jewish expert also told him: "We have found more than two hundred Psalms of David among our books." We have no way of checking whether the cave of manuscripts located just before A.D. 800 is one of those in which the Dead Sea Scrolls would be found almost 1,150 years later, but the parallel is at least intriguing, and the description of the scrolls in some ways matches those from Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Some Jewish and Arabic sources also refer to a medieval Jewish group that went under the name "the cave people" (magariyah in Arabic) because their teachings arose from books found in a cave.


No other finds of this kind are attested until 1947. In that year some Arab shepherds stumbled upon a cave, and their find led to what was soon hailed as the greatest archeological discovery of the twentieth century. The ways in which the caves were found and the texts in them came to the attention of scholars are a dramatic story in themselves.

1. The First Cave

a. The Seven Original Scrolls

John Trever (1915-2006), one of the first scholars to lay eyes on any of the scrolls and the first to photograph those brought to him in 1948, wrote a thoroughly researched and documented history of the initial Qumran finds. Much of his report came from his own experience and notes. According to his account, three Bedouin shepherds were in an area called Qumran on the northwest side of the Dead Sea in the winter or spring of 1947 (possibly in late 1946, as the Bedouin claimed). At that time the territory was under the rule of the British Mandate in Palestine. The shepherds, who were cousins and members of the Ta'amireh tribe, were apparently tending their flocks when one of them, named Jum'a Muhammad Khalil, who enjoyed searching for caves, amused himself by tossing rocks at a cave opening in the cliffs to the west of the plateau at Qumran. One of the rocks went into the mouth of the cave and shattered something inside. The three did not enter the cave at that time to check what had broken, but two days later one of the shepherds, Muhammad ed-Dhib (his real name is Muhammad Ahmed el-Hamed), rose early in the morning before his companions had awakened, located the cave, and squeezed into it. There he found ten jars, each about two feet high. To his dismay, all but two of them were empty. One of these two had dirt in it; the other contained three scrolls, two of which were wrapped in linen. The scrolls were later identified as a copy of the biblical book of Isaiah, the Manual of Discipline (setting forth rules for a community, subsequently called the Rule of the Community), and a commentary on the prophecy of Habakkuk. Later, the Bedouin found four additional scrolls: a collection of psalms or hymns (known as the Thanksgiving Hymns or Hymn Scroll, in Hebrew Hodayot), another partial copy of Isaiah, the War Scroll or War Rule (an eschatological text describing the final war between the "sons of light" and the "sons of darkness"), and the Genesis Apocryphon (stories based on some narratives in Genesis).

The scrolls were brought to an antiquities dealer named Kando (Khalil Iskandar Shahin; ca. 1910-1993) in March 1947. Kando, who was a member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, contacted another church member, George Isaiah, who spoke with Athanasius Yeshua Samuel (1907-1995), a metropolitan (archbishop) associated with St. Mark's Monastery in Jerusalem. One must remember that at this time no one knew what the recently discovered scrolls contained, what language they were written in, or how much money they were worth. Members of the Syrian Church were contacted because it was thought the scrolls might be written in the Syriac language. A deal was apparently struck in which the Bedouin would receive two-thirds of whatever amount of money Kando and George Isaiah could get for the scrolls. In the summer of 1947 a meeting between Metropolitan Samuel and the Bedouin was arranged. An oft-repeated story recounts how a monk, who was unaware of the planned meeting and who happened to answer the Bedouin's knock when they arrived at St. Mark's, turned away the poorly dressed tribesmen and thus nearly botched the chance to gain a great treasure. The misunderstanding was eventually rectified, and the metropolitan purchased four of the scrolls from Kando for u24 (= about $100 at the time). The scrolls bought by the metropolitan were the larger Isaiah scroll, the Manual of Discipline (the Rule of the Community), the commentary on Habakkuk, and the Genesis Apocryphon.

The metropolitan attempted to get information from various experts about his newly purchased scrolls. One of those consulted on his behalf was Professor Eleazar Sukenik (1889-1953), an archeologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. At the time Palestine was a dangerous place indeed, as the British Mandate was staggering toward its end amid an orgy of violence and the United Nations was debating the partition of Palestine. These conditions naturally made travel extremely difficult and perilous. Nevertheless, when Sukenik learned that an antiquities dealer in Bethlehem was offering what appeared to be ancient scrolls for sale, he made a secret visit to that city on November 29, 1947, the very date on which the United Nations passed the resolution to partition Palestine and thus to create the state of Israel. The coincidence was not lost on Sukenik. He saw the three scrolls that the metropolitan had not purchased and bought them, after becoming convinced of their antiquity: two on November 29 (the Hymn Scroll and the War Scroll) and the third in December (the second Isaiah scroll). In January an acquaintance, Anton Kiraz, showed him the four scrolls that the metropolitan had, and he was even permitted to keep them for a short time. He was not aware that they had come from the same source as the three he had just obtained. Naturally, he wanted to buy them as well. The Metropolitan Samuel decided, however, that he did not wish to sell them at that time. Thus, the seven scrolls from the first cave were separated into two groups and would be published by different individuals.

By this time several parties had identified the great Isaiah scroll, which the Metropolitan Samuel possessed, but Sukenik seems to have been the first to recognize the antiquity of the parchments. Moreover, he thought that they might have been associated with the Essenes, a Jewish group attested in ancient sources. His reason was that the Roman geographer Pliny (A.D. 23-79) had written about a band of Essenes living near the shores of the Dead Sea not far from En-gedi — that is, where the cave of the scrolls seemed to have been located (I examine the passage from Pliny in chap. 3).

By the time the first anniversary of Muhammad ed-Dhib's find had come and gone, few people knew of the Scrolls, and those who did know of them understood little about them. Nor did any but the Bedouin and their immediate contacts know the location of the cave where they had discovered the scrolls. In February 1948 (that is, after his dealings with Sukenik) the metropolitan initiated contacts with the American School in Jerusalem, where two recent recipients of the Ph.D. degree were on duty — William Brownlee (1917-1983) and John Trever. Both had been awarded annual fellowships from the American Schools of Oriental Research. Trever was a photographer, as well as a scholar, and he arranged to have the scrolls brought to the American School. There, under terrible conditions (such as poor film and a very unreliable electrical supply), he took the first photographs of the metropolitan's documents (the larger Isaiah scroll, the Manual of Discipline [Rule of the Community], and the commentary on Habakkuk). The photographs turned out astonishingly well and are still today a priceless record of what could be seen in February 1948 on the now-deteriorating parchments. The scholars at the American School, with the director Professor Millar Burrows (1889-1980) of Yale University, who had been away in Baghdad when the scrolls first arrived, spent hours studying the texts Trever had photographed. One of them reminded Burrows of a Methodist "Discipline"; in this way it received its first modern name "the Manual of Discipline." In February Trever wrote to Professor William Foxwell Albright (1891-1971) of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the leading expert on the ancient Jewish scripts. Albright immediately recognized the antiquity of the script in the sample sent to him and replied: "My heartiest congratulations on the greatest MS [= manuscript] discovery of modern times!"

Dangerous conditions and political problems still precluded any attempt to search for the scrolls cave. The scholars at the American School apparently wanted to encourage such an exploratory effort. To do so, they finally divulged to the Syrians associated with St. Mark's, who had been giving them misleading information about the source of the scrolls, how old they thought the texts were. They also arranged for a news release. On April 11, 1948, the American Schools of Oriental Research office in New Haven, CT, released a statement. It carried a New York dateline and read (as given in The Times of London on April 12, 1948):

Yale University announced yesterday the discovery in Palestine of the earliest known manuscript of the Book of Isaiah. It was found in the Syrian monastery of St Mark in Jerusalem, where it had been preserved in a scroll of parchment dating to about the first century bc. Recently it was identified by scholars of the American School of Oriental Research at Jerusalem.

There were also examined at the school three other ancient Hebrew scrolls. One was part of a commentary on the Book of Habakkuk; another seemed to be a manual of discipline of some comparatively little-known sect or monastic order, possibly the Essenes. The third scroll has not been identified.

The press release is interesting for several reasons. First, it says nothing about the cave and its possible whereabouts. Readers were misled into thinking that the scrolls had been discovered at St. Mark's. Second, the dating of the Isaiah scroll was considered reliable enough to announce (based on the paleographical or script analyses of Trever and Albright). Third, the one document already had the name "Manual of Discipline." Fourth, the American scholars introduced the notion that the "Manual" was associated with a "sect or monastic order." Contrary to the impression later given, the idea did not derive from one of the priests (such as R. de Vaux) who later played such an important role in Scrolls research. Fifth, the Essene connection is already there. Finally, the last scroll, now known as the Genesis Apocryphon, was in such poor condition that it could not even be opened, much less identified.

On April 26 Sukenik announced the news about the scrolls he had bought. He later remarked that, after seeing how inaccurate the American press release was, he felt it was fitting to issue a statement to the newspapers in order to set the record straight. That he, too, had scrolls from the cave was news not only to the world at large but also to the scholars of the American School, so poor was communication in Jerusalem at that time. It so happens that Millar Burrows, who had written the original press release, did not formulate it the way it was printed. As he wrote later,

Unfortunately a mistake had somehow been introduced into the version given to the press. I had written, "The scrolls were acquired by the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark." As released to the press in America the statement said that the scrolls had been "preserved for many centuries in the library of the Syrian Orthodox Monastery of St. Mark in Jerusalem." Who inserted this I do not know.

His quotation from the American press release does not agree with the wording of the one in The Times. Even though Sukenik's press release was dated April 26, the New York Times carried a story in the April 25 issue (p. 6), written specially for the Times by J. L. Meltzer. It reported that ten ancient Hebrew scrolls had been found "some time ago in a hillside cave near En-Geddi, halfway down the western shore of the Dead Sea." The Times's correspondent knew about the texts of the American School and those of the Hebrew University (including fragments of Daniel that Sukenik had subsequently acquired) and was aware that Bedouin had discovered the scrolls. The article included the claim that the leather scrolls were "sealed with pitch." Later it was learned that what appeared to be pitch was actually decomposed leather. In the same month — April 1948 — Albright, who by that time knew of the four texts of the American School and the ones held by Sukenik (he thought there were at least eight manuscripts), announced the finds in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (110 [April 1948] 3). To the news he added a prophetic comment: "It is easy to surmise that the new discovery will revolutionize intertestamental studies, and that it will soon antiquate all present handbooks on the background of the New Testament and on the textual criticism and interpretation of the Old Testament."

While the story of these seven scrolls and their fate took many twists and turns, all of them were published at a very early date. The American Schools of Oriental Research published photographs and transcriptions of the Isaiah scroll, the commentary on Habakkuk, and the Manual of Discipline (Rule of the Community) in 1950 and 1951, while Sukenik's texts appeared in a posthumous volume dated 1954 (English translation in 1955). He and the Americans had, however, begun issuing photographs and transcriptions in preliminary form already in 1948. The last of the seven scrolls to appear, the Genesis Apocryphon, was a particular problem because of the advanced state of decay it had attained. But after it was opened what could be read on it at the time was published in 1956.


Excerpted from The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James C. VanderKam Copyright © 2010 by James C. VanderKam. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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