on January 25, 2003
There are a number of books on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Some are well balanced, and others simply what one can call sensationalism. Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer, an Aramaic expert, as well as one of the world's best biblical scholars,belonging to the school of Prof.William f.Albright,was involved in the Dead Sea Scrolls project since the 1950s. He edited the Tobit texts of these documents coming from the Essenes. His book is easy to read and provides a lot of information. A must for scholar and layman alike.
on February 8, 2011
The popularity of Raymond Brown's "Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible" apparently gave Paulist Press the idea to create a series of books on various religious topics using the Q&A format (as of last month there are 32 books in the series according to my amazon search). The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are a perfect subject matter to address in this format; and they picked the right man for the job.
My interest in the DSS are limited. My knowledge about the Scrolls and the community that produced them was limited to the references to them in works of biblical scholarship that I had read and a brief visit to Qumran during a tour of the Holy Land five years ago. I got this book with a desire to know the basics of the DSS in order to aid me in my understanding of the Bible and biblical history.
Jesuit priest and biblcal scholar, Joseph Fitzmyer, makes the reading flow smoothly from one question to the next while covering various topics from the discovery and collection of the Scrolls (a bizzare story in and of itself), the types of documents found there, what the main documents contain, the doctrine, theology, and spirituality of the Qumran community, the relation to and possible influence on the New Testament, the intricacies of organizing and translating the texts (in which Father Fitzmyer was personally invovled), and the various scandals and conspiracy theories involved in the publication of the DSS.
In popular culture, the DSS are mysterious and ancient relics that seem interesting, yet, inaccessable to the general public while attracting crackpots and conspiracy theorists who make ridiculous claims about the Scrolls. Father Fitzmyer succeeds in demystifying the Scrolls and making them more fascinating at the same time. My one complaint with this book is that, at one point, the geography of the Qumran area is being described, as well as, where the eleven caves are in relation to one another. This portion of the book would've been more clear if a map of the area was printed alongside the description, but now I'm just nit-picking. This book gave me everything I was looking for and made me want to read the other books in the "101 Questions" series.
For those of you who wish to study the DSS, "Responses to 101 Questions on the Dead Sea Scrolls" is the perfect introduction to such a venture. If, like me, you seek general knowledge of the Scrolls, this book will quench your thirst.
Fitzmyer is one of the the preeminent scholars on the Dead Sea scrolls. He studied them since the 1950's. This handy book is posed as a series of questions and answers about the scrolls.
The most important revelation of the scrolls is the light they have shed on the Judaism of the time. "The authors who wrote the Qumran scrolls were Jews to the hilt...In line with the general trend of postexilic Judaism they regarded Yahweh as the exalted and transcendent creator of all" (p 48).
There are distinct similarities and differences between the writers of the scrolls and the later Christian movement. "The phrase 'son of man' does occur (in the scrolls) but in no case is it a title, such as it is in the NT" (p 115). The gospel of John does use symbols of light and darkness which find parallels in the Qumran scrolls. Fitzmyer also answers charges made by some sensationalist writers about the scrolls. For example, no, there is no evidence that Jesus or John the Baptist had anything to do with the Dead Sea scroll community.
on July 20, 2008
Joseph Fitzmyer is one of the most accomplished Catholic bible scholars today writing from the moderate perspective. This book on the Dead Scrolls may be a bit dated (it came out in 1992), but it remains an excellent introduction to the Scrolls and the controvery surrounding them. As Fitzmyer concedes, the delay in the publication of certain scrolls was scandelous, but there is no reason to think there was anything nefarious in the delay (such as a conspiracy by Catholic scholars). Likewise, although the Scrolls provide valuable background material for understanding the world of Jesus and the early church, sensational claims about references to Jesus and James, etc. have little basis in fact.