- Series: Penguin Classics
- Paperback: 720 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Classics; 7 edition (June 26, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141197315
- ISBN-13: 978-0141197319
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 239 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English: Seventh Edition (Penguin Classics) 7th Edition
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Excellent, up-to-date... will enable the general public to read the non- biblical scrolls and to judge for themselves their importance. (The New York Times Book Review)
About the Author
Geza Vermes’s pioneering work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the historical Jesus led to his appointment as the first professor of Jewish studies at Oxford University, where he is now professor emeritus. He is the author of several books, including The Authentic Gospel of Jesus.
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If this were called "Abridged Portions of Selected Dead Sea Scrolls in English" I would respect it as that would be a wonderfully accurate title, but we all know that it would not sell nearly as well as it has if it had been labeled honestly. This blatant marketing deception fueled by greed is probably to be placed upon Penguin Classics and not the late Geza Vermes, who is an exceptional biblical scholar.
When I first got the book, I was disappointed that the books of the Bible and Torah had been omitted from the work, but I soon learned in class that these were readily available in (drumroll, please) the Bible and the Torah. The significance of the scrolls is that they confirm the accuracy of the already-known but younger copies of these much-read and loved works. Although the scrolls are over a thousand years older than any of the previously known extant writings, they are almost identical to the newer copies!
The scrolls included in this book are peshars, midrashes and targums (commentaries on Biblical books such as Nahum and Habakkuk); a Community Rule for the sect which apparently lived at Qumran, a settlement near the caves where the scrolls were found; eschatological writings regarding the end of times (such as the War Scroll); and directives to the Leader of the sect which presided over the congregation. Very, very interesting window on sectarian life.
The only complaint I have--and it's probably one born of ignorance--is that it is somewhat difficult to find specific documents by using the indices at the end of the book. I'm never sure I've completed a reading assignment because of the cluttered way that the manuscripts are referenced. But when I consider how many thousands of fragments were organized and of how many copies of the same text were found in 11 different caves, it's no wonder the index is so complex. Some people use this book to study only ONE of the copies of a document. So all of the works must be referenced and cross-referenced in the index--not just the best preserved of the bunch.
Likewise, in reading the translations of the manuscripts, the brackets and parentheses, used in the middle of words and sentences to distinguish between texts from different caves, are rather distracting because they aren't utilized in the manner that I'm accustomed to in reading and writing. It takes a little getting used to. But it is a very effective means for the writer to pull together a fragment of a document from one cave to fill in missing text from another copy of the same document found in another cave.
I don't know if any of that even makes sense. This is a book which really needs a companion text, such as James VanderKam's The Dead Sea Scrolls Today. Unless you already know the history of the sect and how the scrolls were discovered, the manuscripts alone are fairly meaningless to the modern reader.
It was a daunting task, assembling the fragments of the scrolls and cataloging all of the documents found in those caves. To organize all of that information into one cohesive anthology and then translate it from Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek into English and other languages is nothing short of heroic. Vermes is a brilliant man indeed.
Otherwise it is an excellent translation and very needed..
I don't mean to be nit-picking. However, it strikes me as strange that such a word-meister as Vermes indeed is should be so careless with his title.
It is not necessary for me to review the book, since that has been done by others, some quite well, some, well, not so good. Vermes is an excellent scholar and presents a thorough review of the non-biblical Dead Sea Scrolls.