As stated in the preface of this encyclopedia, "the fifty years since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls have seen an immense development in our understanding of biblical studies, the history of Judaism, and the rise of Christianity. . . . [They] provide textual evidence for a variety of topics, including the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible, background for the New Testament and early Christianity, and evidence for the development of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism." Scholarly attention to the scrolls and fragments found in the caves of Qumran remains in its infancy, and study undertaken^B has been rather secret. Only recently were copies released to the entire community of scholars. The encyclopedia "aims to encompass all scholarship on the scrolls to date." Not limiting its scope to the discoveries in the caves of Qumran, it includes texts found throughout the Judean Desert.
Entries are alphabetically arranged and signed by one of the many contributing international scholars. In addition to individual texts, coverage extends to the archaeological sites themselves; important historical figures (Moses ) and groups (Essenes, Pharisees ) as they are represented in the scrolls; scholars important to Dead Sea Scroll research (such as John Strugnell, editor in chief of the scrolls from 1984 to 1990); and methods employed both to date and to preserve these ancient documents. Perhaps the most interesting entries are those that give the reader a glimpse of life in the communities from which many of these documents came. What was the role of women in these communities? How were marriage and divorce understood? What place did celibacy have in the lives of men and women? What ritual practices were observed? Entries conclude with supplemental bibliographies, often annotated, with emphasis on English-language sources. The encyclopedia concludes with a general index as well as appendixes, listing individual texts from the various sites in the Judean Desert, their text numbers, official names as used in scholarly literature, and names used in this work.
The content of this new resource is wholly unique. These texts require the reexamination of the history of Judaism and Christianity as well as the sources upon which those histories have been based, something that other encyclopedias of Judaism, Christianity, the Bible, and Near Eastern archaeology do not provide. The editors are keenly aware that this line of scholarly inquiry is only just beginning. Although the encyclopedia as a whole takes no particular approach to the subject matter, individual scholars have been given freedom to present their own scholarly views, and the result is perhaps more of a status than a final report. However, the usefulness of a source that brings together current academic thinking on so important a topic is beyond question. Highly recommended for large public and academic libraries serving interest in Judaism, Christianity, biblical studies, and archaeology. RBB
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