The watershed in modern scrolls history a decade ago (when the entire text, whose release had been held up by scholars for years, was finally made available) made it possible for research to proceed at a pace necessary to produce this work. This volume is a current, comprehensive guide to the fruit of 50 years of scrolls scholarship. Alphabetically arranged articles treat archaeological sites, material, and writings as well as ancient beliefs and practices, contemporary history and individuals, related ancient texts, and scrolls research. The articles are extensively cross referenced, and a "synoptic" outline of the contents separates articles by theme. The continuing divergence of scholarly opinion on the scrolls is reflected in the list of contributors and often is evident in the articles themselves. While most of these articles are accessible to lay readers, some may prove to be a challenge. For example, "Mird, Khirbet" contains architectural terms--without explanation--that are likely unfamiliar to nonspecialists. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the EDSS is the lack of illustrations, which may further frustrate lay readers. Minor criticisms aside, though, this volume promises to be a necessary part of academic collections and should be considered for larger public libraries as well.
-Craig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In 1947, Bedouins in the Judean Desert happen upon a cave in which clay jars are discovered. Perhaps seeking treasure or simply out of natural curiosity, they break the seals on several of the jars. In one, bundles containing scrolls are found. The story of the discovery, sale, and recognition of the importance of these and other scrolls includes an antiquities dealer known as Mister X and a "for sale" advertisement in the Wall Street Journal . Though they sound like the stuff of a bad Hollywood film, such details in fact prove that truth is often stranger than fiction, for the discovery of these scrolls was one of the most important of the twentieth century.
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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