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Out of the Cave: A Philosophical Inquiry into the Dead Sea Scrolls Research Hardcover – April 10, 2006

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Ullman-Margalit says that '[m]y subject matter is not the scrolls but the study of the scrolls; I engage in research about scrolls research and delve into its inner logic.' I think she has successfully carried out what she intends to do, and she has done so in a clear and appealing style. I know of no other work like it. It provides sensible, honest evaluations and comes to reasonable conclusions. (James VanderKam, the University of Notre Dame)

There is a lull in Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship now, and this book tells us where we have been and what we need to do. It may well provide a theoretical impetus to further reflection. It also offers an interesting test case as to how 'scientific' scholarship works in literature, history, and archaeology regarding methods, achievements, and limitations. The book is well informed, clearly written, and understandable for nonspecialists. The blend of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship and analytical philosophical reasoning makes an interesting and unique combination. No other book examines in such depth the logic underlying the debates about the Dead Sea Scrolls and why they remain so controversial. This book represents a good summary of where we have been and might provide a bridge to future scholarship. It will interest Dead Sea Scrolls specialists, biblical scholars, and archaeologists, as well as the general public. It is a readable and stimulating work, which might play a salutary role in the history of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship. It identifies the problems, and clarifies what we know and do not know, and tells us why. (Daniel J. Harrington, Weston Jesuit School of Theology)

[Ullmann-Margalit's] critical study goes far to explain why even today the Scrolls remain objects of fierce controversy...For all those interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Out of the Cave provides a lucid intellectual structure for the classification and evaluation of Qumranologists. But the book could also serve as an introductory text in philosophy of science. Introducing, with an admirably light touch, classical theories from Bayes to Popper and currently popular models of inference to the best explanation, the author uses scrolls research as a test-bed for the logic of discovery and argument in the human sciences. (Anthony Kenny Times Literary Supplement 2008-10-24)

About the Author

Edna Ullmann-Margalit is Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674022238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674022232
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,131,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Why "reasonable" people so often disagree? Isn't the "evidence" for or against a particular position there for all to see? Dr. Ullmann-Margalit makes a conjecture that helps to understand the phenomenon: the way even the scholars view the evidence is heavily, and often decidedly influenced by their prior assessment of the likelihood (or probability) of the phenomenon the evidence is confirming. "Their very description (or "framing") of the evidence will depend on their degree of belief in the theory being tested".

The overall aim of Dr. Ullmann-Margalit is to examine the field of Qumran Studies, and specifically the Essene connection to the Dead Sea Scrolls. For this, in the first chapter she briefly, but succinctly, sets out to acquaint the reader with the background facts, including the history of discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, and the subsequent scholarship. The main controversy surrounding the Dead Sea scroll study is whether or not they can be attributed to the Essenes - a Jewish sect residing in a nearby settlement - Qumran. Whereas the Qumran-Essene connection is currently the prevailing view, Dr. Ullmann-Margalit points out numerous inconsistencies in the evidence. Specifically, as pointed out in the review of the book by the pre-eminent philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny "...Ullmann-Margalit claims that researchers, instead of respecting the independence of the sources, have allowed them to contaminate each other. Thus the archaeological data are presented not neutrally but in the light of an interpretation of the Scrolls... Instead of a convergence of evidence, she claims, we meet an interpretive circle". (The Times Literary Supplement, October 24, 2008).
In the monumental second chapter, Dr.
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A Philosophical Inquiry into Dead Sea Scrolls Research is a good idea; we could use more research on the history of scholarship. Unfortunately this book is insufficiently acquainted with the history. For example it repeatedly leads the reader to think that de Vaux called Khirbet Qumran a "monastery," though he did not, and this has already been discussed in the literature (see, e.g., Revue Biblique 1966 page 229 and New Testament Studies 1966 page 99). It is part of hearsay or myth that de Vaux wrote that, but analyzing hearsay as if fact has little prospect to help. On page 56 we read of "the total absence of the term 'Essenes' not only from the Dead Sea Scroll corpus but also from the entire rabbinic literature." No reference is given. In order to determine whether the original source is present, one would need to determine what spellings are possible and then look for them. Did this happen, or was hearsay accepted? Actually, there have been over 60 different published proposals for the name Essenes and Ossenes and their several Greek spellings. While there is no consensus on this, a scholarly proposal made as early as in 1532 and in every following century before the Qumran discoveries and gaining adherents since the discoveries is 'osey hatorah, observers of torah--which is indeed in the scrolls, as a self-designation, in texts (the pesharim) considered Essene on other grounds. Rabbis of course did not agree to call them this, but Rabbinic literature may have belittling references to the name ("those who say what is my duty that I may do it"). The book is reluctant to accept that Essenes were at Qumran and wrote some (not all) the scrolls. (For more on this history, see the online paper "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene" [if interested google the title].Read more ›
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