Dead Sea Scrolls – The exhibit and resources in Idaho Falls

Since the Ink & Blood exhibit, showcasing Dead Sea Scroll fragments, is in Idaho Falls, let me introduce you to some of the books at the Idaho Falls Public Library that will better acquaint you to the topic buzzing around our community.

1.  Amazing Dead Sea Scrolls and The Christian Faith (Chicago:  Moody Press, revised edition, 1959) by William Sanford LaSor.

Brief Overview

Lasor’s goal was to answer questions for the evangelical community on historical background of the discovery, the content of manuscripts and fragments, scroll dating, the Qumran community and their religious teachings, and the relationships of Qumran to Christianity and Judaism. 

LaSor provides a handy account of how each OT Jewish book (except Esther) was represented among the DDS scrolls and fragments.  He also covered what was found at Qumran representing deuterocanonical (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Epistle of Jeremy, Baruch, and I & II Maccabees) and apocryphal writings (Jubilees, Enoch, Book of Noah, Testament of Levi, Testament of Naphtali, Sayings of Moses, Scroll of the Patriarchs, and Book of Mysteries, etc.) (40-47).


“One of the arguments that has been advanced by Protestant scholars in defense of the present Hebrew Canon is based on the supposition that no Hebrew texts of the Deuterocanonical books are in existence.  It must now be recognized that three manuscripts of Tobit—one in Hebrew and two in Aramaic—all corresponding to the Greek text have been found in cave 4Q.  It is my opinion that Protestant scholars must now reopen the question of the validity of this particular argument for the Canon which we as Protestants accept.

“Along with this same matter, we might mention the absence (so far) of any fragment of Esther.  Does this indicate that the Qumran sect did not include Esther in its Canon?  The matter needs careful study, particularly as to its implications” (243).

Neither one of these issues faze me over the reliability of our accepted Hebrew canon.

2.   The Dead Sea Scrolls, 1947-1969 (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1969) by Edmund Wilson.

Brief overview

Wilson breaks his book into six main sections:  (1) The scrolls from the Dead Sea, 1955 (The Metropolitan Samuel, the Essene order, the monastery, the Teacher of Righteousness, What would Renan have said?, and General Yadin).  (2)  1955-1967 (Polemics, the Genesis Apocryphon, the Psalms, the Nahum Pesher, John Allegro, the Copper Scrolls, the Texts, the Testimonia, the Epistle to the Hebrews,
Masada, and Dubious Documents).  (3) “On the Eve,” 1967 (Tattoo, Palestinians, the two Jerusalems, the new
National Israel Museum, conversations with Yadin and Flusser, departure).  (4) The June War and the Temple Scroll.  (5)  General Reflections.  (6)  Appendix.


In my opinion, Wilson is a pompous, self-proclaimed “myth-shrinker.”  He writes, “I cannot accept the word God, because I feel it involves a myth.  Any kind of accepted God must, it seems to me, wear an anthropomorphic face, and I cannot accept as an embodiment of God the face of Jesus of which we know nothing but can only imagine and idealize, nor even his reported words and deeds of which our knowledge is rather uncertain and which must have been conditioned by the circumstances of their historical time and place and by those of the persons who chronicled them” (277-278).  And then the author goes on to write scathingly of the Mormons in the next eight pages or so and ultimately mocking the fundamentals of Christianity in general.

3.  The Dead Sea Scrolls in English (New York:  Viking Penguin Inc., second ed., 1975) by G. Vermes.

Brief overview

Vermes introduces the topic and then unfolds the themes of the community (ch. 1), religious belief and practice (ch. 2), persons and events (ch. 3), the community rule (ch. 4), the Damascus rule (ch. 5), the Messianic rule (ch. 6), the war rule (ch. 7), the hymns (ch. 8), liturgical fragments (ch. 9), and biblical interpretation (ch. 10).  The addenda include rules, poetic texts, exegetical documents, and horoscopes.  In conclusion, the appendices provide short summaries of the copper scroll and secondly, the connection of Qumran and Masada.


To clear up any confusion about Scriptural notations, Vermes explains, “Readers may be puzzled to find that many of the scriptural quotations given in this volume do not agree with the texts with which they are familiar.  The discrepancy is partly due to variants in the Scrolls themselves, but mainly to my attempt to render the Bible in accordance with the sense ascribed to it by the Qumran writers.  Had I not done this, it might often have been impossible to perceive any coherence between a text and its interpretation” (17).


His timeline of the “inter-Testamental history of Palestine” (55-57) is helpful.  He discusses the various theories of who the mysterious Teacher of Righteousness might be:  the High Priest Onias III, Priest Jose ben Joezer, Eleazar the Pharisee, the Essene Judas, and Onias the Just but ends up summarizing, “We know only that he was a Priest, that he began his ministry in about 155 B.C., that he openly opposed the Wicked Priest and was scorned, persecuted, and exiled” (67).  DDS Habakkuk commentary connects “The righteous shall live by his faith” with observing the law and believing the Teacher of Righteousness (68, 239). Also, because of my recent biblical studies, I paid particular attention to the divine throne-chariot fragment (212), the commentaries on Isaiah (226-229), and the mentioning of David’s 4,050 compositions (265).  And lastly, I must mention because of the popular interest in the Copper Scroll (i.e. Rosenberg’s latest novel) that Vermes tallies among the sixty hiding-places for treasure, “the total weight of precious metal must have added up to sixty-five tons of silver and twenty-six tons of gold” (271).


The DDS Hymns are fascinating, with all the poetic expressions of “Thy Spirits of Holiness,” “Sons of Heaven,” “Council of the Community” (40-41), “the everlasting Council,” “host of the Holy Ones” (158).  And yet there seems to be a clear line of origination and demarcation between the creatures lifted up for God’s glory and God Himself.


For instance,

“And yet I, a creature of clay,

what am I?

Kneaded with water,

what is my worth and my might?” (159).


In contrast,

“Who is like Thee among the gods, O Lord,

and who is according to Thy truth?

Who, when he is judged,

shall be righteous before Thee?

For no spirit can reply to Thy rebuke

nor can any withstand Thy wrath. . . .

For Thou art an eternal God;

all Thy ways are determined for ever [and ever]

and there is none other beside Thee.

And what is a man of Naught and Vanity

that he should understand Thy marvelous mighty deeds?” (175)


This is beautifully penned,

Clay and dust that I am,

what can I devise unless Thou wish it,

and what contrive unless Thou desire it?

What strength shall I have

unless Thou keep me upright,

and how shall I understand

unless by (the spirit) which Thou has shaped for me?

What can I say unless Thou open my mouth

and how can I answer unless Thou enlighten me?

Behold, Thou art Prince of gods

and King of majesties,

Lord of all spirits,

and Ruler of all creatures;

nothing is done without Thee,

and nothing is known without Thy will.

Beside Thee there is nothing,

and nothing can compare with Thee in strength;

in the presence of Thy glory there is nothing,

and Thy might is without price.

Who among Thy great and marvellous creatures

can stand in the presence of Thy glory?

How then can he who returns to his dust?

For Thy glory’s sake alone hast Thou made all these things” (182-183).

4.  The Dead Sea Scrolls:  A Personal Account (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted, November 1979) by John C. Trever.

Actually, this book was handed to me by a brother in my church family.  It is personally autographed by John on the front title page.

Brief Overview

The book chronicles the author’s personal journey as the “first American to examine, evaluate, and photograph the oldest Biblical documents yet discovered, and to bring them to the attention of the world” (177).  The black and white photos in the middle of the book whet your appetite.  Appendix 1 provides an excerpt of the tape-recorded interview with Ta’amireh Bedouins (191-194).  Three men, Jum‘a Muhammed, Muhammed Ahmed el Hamed and Khalil Musa (pictured opposite page 96) discovered the Cave 1 Scrolls. Faidi Salahi bought the scrolls from the Bedouins for preposterous prices!!  Appendix II gives the timeline of the Dead Sea Scroll Story (195-205).


Trever’s account is vivid, starting at the beginning when he was first handed scrolls from the Syrian monks at St. Mark’s Monastery.  “. . . they lifted from the satchel a large scroll . . . Removing the Arabic newspaper, I saw that this scroll was made of thinner, softer leather and was much more pliable. . . . Laying the heavy document on my bed, slowly I began to open it. . . . Here was not what I had expected!  The script was puzzling to eyes more accustomed to Kittel’s Biblia Hebraica in modern printed Hebrew and a few relatively modern Torah and Esther scrolls.  I had expected the identification to be easy, but this scroll was different.  It fired my imagination.  Suddenly there flashed through my mind the words Burrows had spoken to me several times as I worked on my doctoral dissertation at Yale University six years before: ‘Let your evidence lead you where it will.’ . . . My heart began to pound.  Could this manuscript, so beautifully preserved, be as old as the Nash Papyrus?  Such a thought appeared too incredible, but the similarity to the Nash Papyrus was strong evidence leading in that direction.” 

Later in his room and scanning a large Hebrew dictionary that directed him to Isaiah 65:1, Trever confirmed, “It was a scroll of Isaiah, without a doubt!” (27)  He hardly slept that night—certainly, I wouldn’t have either!  Trever finishes chapter two of his book, “Events moved so rapidly after my first view of the scrolls that it was several months before I noticed the ironic meaning of the whole passage which had led to the identification of the Isaiah Scroll.  Thumbing through a Gideon Bible one evening in a hotel room,  I turned to Isaiah 65:1 and was startled to read the words:  I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not. . . . (28).

Theological Sidenote

A personal, tract-pamphlet, “REFLECTIONS” by John C. Trever, Ph.D, also came with the book.  The small tri-fold brochure expressed a gospel according to Trever, the director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Project and part of the School of Theology at Claremont in Claremont, California.  It states, “To be ‘SAVED,’ then, is to be TURNED TOWARD GOD and to WANT TO BE a part of the ‘Fellowship of Creative Beings,” working together with the Infinite Creator to PERFECT this “Space-ship Earth.’”  Obviously, Trever was no evangelical fundamentalist.

5.  Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York:  Random House, 1992) edited by Hershel Shanks.

Brief Overview

In this hard-cover book, Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and Bible Review, has compiled a number of essays by leading Dead Sea Scroll scholars.  The themes are as follows:  The Find, Where They Came From, The Temple Scroll, The Dead Sea Scrolls and The Bible, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christianity, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Rabbinic Judaism, The Copper Scroll, Reconstructing the Scrolls, and Controversy and the Scrolls.


I was chiefly interested in these essays:  “The Historical Context of the Scrolls” by Frank Moore Cross, “The Temple Scroll—The Longest Dead Sea Scroll” by Yigael Yadin, “Is the Temple Scroll a Sixth Book of the Torah—Lost for 2,500 Years?” by Hartmut Stegemann, “The Text Behind The Text of the Hebrew Bible” and “Light On the Bible from The Dead Sea Caves” by Frank Moore Cross, “Was John the Baptist an Essene?” by Otto Betz, and “Is the Vatican Suppressing the Dead Sea Scrolls?” by Hershel Shanks.


6.  The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered:  The First Complete Translation and Interpretation of 50 Key Documents Withheld for Over 35 Years (New York:  Barnes & Noble Books, 1994) by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise.


Doesn’t the title ring of conspiracies?  The book is sensational!  Turn to page 24 with the title heading:  The Messianic Leader (NASI – 4Q285).  The authors write, “We released this text at the height of the controversy over access to the Dead Sea Scrolls in November 1991.  Since then much discussion has occurred concerning it.  Our purpose in releasing it was to show that there were very interesting materials in the unpublished corpus which for some reason had not been made public and to show how close the scriptural contexts in which the movement or community responsible for this text and early Christianity were operating really were.  However one reconstructs or translates this text, it is potentially very explosive. . . .”


7.  The Dead Sea Scrolls:  A New Translation (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1996) by Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook.

Brief Overview

The Prolegomena gives an introduction, a Dead Sea scrolls time line, instruction on how to read a Dead Sea scroll and how to read this book.  The next section of the book, Texts, gives you the English translation of 131 texts.  The authors also include an extensive bibliography and very helpful index of references to the Hebrew Bible, Apocrypha/Pseudoepigrapha, New Testament, and Rabbinic Texts.

8.  Is the Bible True?  How Modern Debates and Discoveries Affirm the Essence of the Scriptures (HarperCollins Publishers and Zondervan, 1999) by Jeffrey L. Sheler.

Brief Overview

I have thrown in this book that you can also find at the local library.  I only read part three of the book:  “The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls” (125-170).  The author covers the discovery at Qumran, fifty years of scroll research, the scrolls and the Old Testament, the scrolls and the New Testament.  The author is riveting and factual.  For a quick overview and compelling reporting of exciting history, swirling controversies, and hot issues surrounding the Dead Sea scrolls, I would recommend you read this first.  The short amount of time expended with this religion writer of the U.S. News & World Report is fully worth it for providing an intriguing introduction to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the last century.

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