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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dubious origins
Vermes, in his editorializing in this book, adheres perfectly to the party line of the founders and propagators of the scientific "scandal of the century". He barely acknowledges any contradictory points of view; and when he does, his refutations are either inadequate or nonexistent.
For example, in a single paragraph in his introductory material Vermes...
Published on Dec 1 2003 by S. K. Foland

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Less important than you think, and dubiously edited
There is something about the Dead Sea Scrolls that brings out the worst in scholars; from John M.Allegro, who started out as one of their editors and ended up deciding that Jesus was a mushroom, to those who write (and publish!) books to prove that Jesus was the Teacher of Righteousness, or that He never existed.
The fact is that their importance has been...
Published on Nov. 12 2003 by F. P. Barbieri


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dubious origins, Dec 1 2003
By 
S. K. Foland "Steve Foland" (Crofton, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Vermes, in his editorializing in this book, adheres perfectly to the party line of the founders and propagators of the scientific "scandal of the century". He barely acknowledges any contradictory points of view; and when he does, his refutations are either inadequate or nonexistent.
For example, in a single paragraph in his introductory material Vermes rejects the well- and voluminously stated opinions of Norman Golb regarding the so-called 4QMMT scroll. What is the stated basis of Vermes' rejection? That the calendric information at the beginning of the scroll is solar rather than lunar. However, when the reader arrives at the translation of the scroll itself, it is only to read in the explanatory rubric that Vermes thinks that the calendar is, in all probability, not a part of the body of the following text -- the text being the part of the scroll that Golb had written about.

While Vermes is not given to resorting to the ad hominem attacks and ridicule so often used by the "keepers of the consensus" regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls, his strict adherence to the party line of the "keepers" is a constant and depressing reminder of the scandal that culminated in the publication of this book. Such things as questionable translations, and the elsewhere-learned reasons for them, are sad further reminders of the scandal.

In order to dissuade future scholars from succumbing to the tempation to perpetrate or participate in immoral and illegal activities in the furtherance of their personal academic careers, all of the people involved in the Dead-Sea-Scrolls scandal should be stripped of their academic credentials -- posthumously if that is now the individual case. The stripping would, of course, include Mr. Vermes.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Less important than you think, and dubiously edited, Nov. 12 2003
By 
There is something about the Dead Sea Scrolls that brings out the worst in scholars; from John M.Allegro, who started out as one of their editors and ended up deciding that Jesus was a mushroom, to those who write (and publish!) books to prove that Jesus was the Teacher of Righteousness, or that He never existed.
The fact is that their importance has been overestimated; and that for a very good - or very bad - reason. Long before 1948, Western historical writers, especially from the Protestant tradition, had developed an itch to find "alternative" sources for Palestinian history, to change the picture so far known - to disprove (to put it brutally) the historicity of the Gospels. This itch came before any sources: it was the desire to disprove the Gospels that drove what passed for historical research, not the opposite; and, the absence of such sources, German and American scholars developed entire arrays of question-begging techniques to deny their value - techniques quite alien (and I speak from experience) to the average historian.
It is of course true that, as a cache of largely new documents about first-century Palestine, the Scrolls are of great interest; but the area they cover is hardly undiscovered country. Long before their discovery, the New Testament, Josephus, the earliest portions of the Talmud (however difficult to interpret) and sundry other sources, such as Classical and Samaritan, had told us much more about Roman-age Palestine than about most other Roman provinces (compare the difficulty of writing a history of Palestine with that of writing one about, say, Illyria or Mauretania or Britain or even Syria). This is what makes it so infuriating for the would-be deniers: not only are the documents there, but the more serious research is actually carried out, the more their first-century origin becomes clear - the more their picture is confirmed - the less, rather than more, any reason to disbelieve other than outright rejection can be advanced.
And the new documents have forced no major reinterpretation of history - even though a number of unfortunates have tried their best to prove otherwise. That is the point. From the moment they were first publicized, an immense reservoir of pent-up hope has focussed on them, the hope to have finally something to show that eagerly-anticipated vision - a world without Jesus, or at least a Jesus without miracles and without Resurrection. It simply did not work out that way: the documents, whose focus is really quite narrow, have nothing to say about Jesus and - in spite of frequent allusions to the contrary - have little in common with His views and do nothing to disprove His originality.
A complete English version of what has so far been published is of course necessary; I could however wish that it had been carried out by less partial and less opinionated an authority than Professor Vermes. Some of Professor V's readings positively damage understanding: in particular, his insistence on placing the common Dead Sea Scroll usage GODS for ANGELS in inverted commas is presumptuous and intrusive, it imposes on the material a presumption of similarity with modern Jewish monotheism that the facts do not warrant. We know from St.Paul - especially Galatians - that angels were objects of autonomous worship in contemporary Hebraism; and some of the most impressive writing in the Scrolls themselves is placed in the mouth of angels such as Michael (page 523). The growth of Aeon-worship among the groups called Gnostics tells us the same thing: in Hebraic and Christian environments in the first couple of centuries AD, Angel-worship was the primary temptation. And we know that a similar evolution had taken place in Zoroastrianism, where the various orders of angels beneath Ahura Mazda developed their own identities and their own all but divine cult. Indeed, their technical name was YAZATA - "worthy of cult". It is under Christian and Muslim influence that post-Massoretic Hebraism returned to an extreme monotheism; the evidence is that, in the first century, Hebraic thought was moving in a quite different direction. So why, except for prejudice, does Professor Vermes write "gods"? Incredibly, the words ANGELS and GODS are not even found in the General Index.
Other aspects of his opinionated attitude can be found in many places. I will just mention one: discussing the Book of Enoch, he says:
"The bulk of the fragments is too small for translation. It would be wholly meaningless to render into English the retranslation into Aramaic of the Ethiopic and/or Greek texts supplied by their editor, J.T. Milik, who has conjecturally filled the many gaps in the Qumran manuscripts."
Excuse me? Wholly meaningless? English readers only have a translation of two translations, the Greek and the Ethiopian; Milik has reconstructed the original; and it is "wholly meaningless" to present to the English public a translation of this indubitably better source? There are many such positions taken with insufficient or no reason. My advice to people interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls is therefore this: buy and read the book; but be on your guard, and watch carefully, for any one of the many unmotivated, opinionated, and aggressive statements that Professor Vermes unfortunately produces in such quantity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the first time in 2000 years..., Dec 9 2005
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Penguin Classics Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English (Paperback)
Geza Vermes' book, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, is a worthy capstone to a long and distinguished scroll career. Vermes entire career, from his student days to this present work, has been concentrated largely on the Dead Sea Scrolls and related topics. His doctorate in 1953 was completed with a dissertation on the historical framework of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is difficult to find any scholar with as complete a knowledge of the scrolls as has Vermes; it is impossible to find one who knows them better.
This book was released in 1997, 50 years from the time the first Arab shepherd climbed into a cave in search of a wandering animal and instead fell upon the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Following the 'revolution' of 1991 (to use Vermes words), everyone interested could have unfettered access to the Scrolls, and yet, as inaccessible as they had been previously due to physical restriction, they remained just as inaccessible due to the problem of language and translation.
'In addition to the English rendering of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts found in the eleven Qumran caves, two inscribed potsherds (ostraca) retrieved from the Qumran site and two Qumran-type documents discovered in the fortress of Masada, and brief introductory notes to each text, this volume also provides an up-to-date general introduction, outlining the history of fifty years of Scroll research and sketching the organisation, history and religious message of the Qumran Community.'
This is the latest volume of a series: when Vermes first published an edition in 1962 (then 15 years after the discovery of the first scrolls), the book had 262 pages; the current edition has 648. The introduction deals with a brief sketch of the history of research (including a bit on the controversies, such as not allowing Jewish scholars to work on these Jewish texts, the close-guarding and restrictive access of the scrolls by the scholars); further issues in the introduction address current research, including questions of dating, provenance, and perhaps, most importantly, the meaning and significance of the Qumran texts.
Vermes puts together a three-part essay on his view (as well as a little on alternative views) of who was the community at Qumran, the history of that community, and the religious ideas of the community.
This is where we get into the text of the Scrolls in earnest. Vermes begins with The Community Rule a large document that listed the requirements and a penal code. This is best known as the Manual of Discipline. Composition may have begun about 100 BCE, and several fragmentary remains exist of copies of the manual.
'There are, to my knowledge, no writings in ancient Jewish sources parallel to the Community Rule, but a similar type of literature flourished amogn Christians between the second and fourth centuries, the so-called 'Church Orders' represented by works such as the Didache, the Didascalia, the Apostolic Constitution.'
From the Rules and variants, including the now-infamous MMT text, which provoked international lawsuits for violating the 'copyright' exerted by one Scroll scholar on its contents, Vermes proceeds to examine Hymns and Poems; Calendars, Liturgies and Prayers; Apocalyptic Works (which have the greatest appeal to many imminent eschatologically-inclined sects today); Wisdom Literature; Bible translations, commentaries, and apocryphal works; and Miscellanea, including objects such as the Copper Scroll (a rare form, not on parchment, which reads like an accountant's register of treasure), and lists, including the List of False Prophets.
For anyone interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls in any serious way, this is an essential book. With various 'complete' scroll editions and collections being released, this edition, produced by one who has devoted his life to scroll studies, remains one of the best, most complete and clearly translated.
The one drawback, which will only affect those whose interest extends to the study of Roman-period Hebrew and Aramaic, is that there is no photographic imagery or recreation in Hebrew/Aramaic script to show the actual scroll text so that one might make a personal study of the accuracy of the translation. Thus, this text works best for that purpose in conjunction with another translation, or with the very-expensive scroll photographic plate sets now available.
But, for most any use from general interest to scholarship, this volume will serve the reader well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars For the first time in 2000 years..., June 15 2003
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Geza Vermes' book, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, is a worthy capstone to a long and distinguished scroll career. Vermes entire career, from his student days to this present work, has been concentrated largely on the Dead Sea Scrolls and related topics. His doctorate in 1953 was completed with a dissertation on the historical framework of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is difficult to find any scholar with as complete a knowledge of the scrolls as has Vermes; it is impossible to find one who knows them better.
This book was released in 1997, 50 years from the time the first Arab shepherd climbed into a cave in search of a wandering animal and instead fell upon the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Following the 'revolution' of 1991 (to use Vermes words), everyone interested could have unfettered access to the Scrolls, and yet, as inaccessible as they had been previously due to physical restriction, they remained just as inaccessible due to the problem of language and translation.
'In addition to the English rendering of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts found in the eleven Qumran caves, two inscribed potsherds (ostraca) retrieved from the Qumran site and two Qumran-type documents discovered in the fortress of Masada, and brief introductory notes to each text, this volume also provides an up-to-date general introduction, outlining the history of fifty years of Scroll research and sketching the organisation, history and religious message of the Qumran Community.'
This is the latest volume of a series: when Vermes first published an edition in 1962 (then 15 years after the discovery of the first scrolls), the book had 262 pages; the current edition has 648. The introduction deals with a brief sketch of the history of research (including a bit on the controversies, such as not allowing Jewish scholars to work on these Jewish texts, the close-guarding and restrictive access of the scrolls by the scholars); further issues in the introduction address current research, including questions of dating, provenance, and perhaps, most importantly, the meaning and significance of the Qumran texts.
Vermes puts together a three-part essay on his view (as well as a little on alternative views) of who was the community at Qumran, the history of that community, and the religious ideas of the community.
This is where we get into the text of the Scrolls in earnest. Vermes begins with The Community Rule a large document that listed the requirements and a penal code. This is best known as the Manual of Discipline. Composition may have begun about 100 BCE, and several fragmentary remains exist of copies of the manual.
'There are, to my knowledge, no writings in ancient Jewish sources parallel to the Community Rule, but a similar type of literature flourished amogn Christians between the second and fourth centuries, the so-called 'Church Orders' represented by works such as the Didache, the Didascalia, the Apostolic Constitution.'
From the Rules and variants, including the now-infamous MMT text, which provoked international lawsuits for violating the 'copyright' exerted by one Scroll scholar on its contents, Vermes proceeds to examine Hymns and Poems; Calendars, Liturgies and Prayers; Apocalyptic Works (which have the greatest appeal to many imminent eschatologically-inclined sects today); Wisdom Literature; Bible translations, commentaries, and apocryphal works; and Miscellanea, including objects such as the Copper Scroll (a rare form, not on parchment, which reads like an accountant's register of treasure), and lists, including the List of False Prophets.
For anyone interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls in any serious way, this is an essential book. With various 'complete' scroll editions and collections being released, this edition, produced by one who has devoted his life to scroll studies, remains one of the best, most complete and clearly translated.
The one drawback, which will only affect those whose interest extends to the study of Roman-period Hebrew and Aramaic, is that there is no photographic imagery or recreation in Hebrew/Aramaic script to show the actual scroll text so that one might make a personal study of the accuracy of the translation. Thus, this text works best for that purpose in conjunction with another translation, or with the very-expensive scroll photographic plate sets now available.
But, for most any use from general interest to scholarship, this volume will serve the reader well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very happy, April 23 2003
By 
Jeremy Brimer (Liberty, MO United States) - See all my reviews
All i have to say is trust this person, they were very nice and sent my book right away. im happy with them.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An adequate source for this text, April 5 2003
By A Customer
Looking for some source for this material to use as reference I somehow ended up with this book on my shelf. It has so far been useful. Where anyone would get off claiming that this stuff comes directly from God is beyond me. I don't find it any more wise, insightful, or helpful than a lot of self help books you find out there today. If God were to write his word for us to read you'd think it would have much more power than the Scrolls and it wouldn't require so much rereading and analysis to pull out its full potential. I mean, imagine you're God and you need to transmit your word to your people - are you gonna do it in a way that requires and allows interpretation and let it languish in a cave and rot away until only fragments are left? Way I see it, if you're God and you do this then you have no right to get mad when people never get around to reading Your word, not to mention when they totally misinterpret Your word or even ignore it altogether. Frankly, there's ample grounds (the language problem, for instance, nothing is completely the same once it's translated) to reject this material completely due to its faulty transmission. If you don't agree with me, then grab yourself any translation of the Scrolls and if after reading it once you are not completely changed forever into a fully realized and illuminated child of God immediately upon reading it then, well, good luck proving the Scrolls' divine origin to anyone who still has the ability to think for themselves. And by the way, what the heck was old whats-her-name's problem down in FLA? Man, I sure hope I don't ever meet that misguided fanatical scizo in a dark alley!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Live From The Judean Desert... Okay, Not Live, But..., Sept. 4 2002
By 
Big Dave (Boise, Idaho) - See all my reviews
The case for reading the Dead Sea Scrolls is not as compelling as the case for reading the Bible. Assuming their truth value is identical (i.e., both contain or do not contain the word of God), the Bible has the added attraction of being a fundamental text of Western culture. The day may come when popular literature, song and film are sprinkled with allusions to the Community Rule, but we're not there yet.
But you ought to read the Dead Sea Scrolls anyway. You ought to read them because they shed light on an important point -- the "Intertestamental Period" -- where the Bible is dark. You ought to read them because they fill in some of the vacuum from which Christianity appears to spring. You ought to read them because they're interesting. You ought to read them for their moral content and because, just maybe, these books belong alongside the books of the Bible as inspired prophetic literature.
Vermes's translation is fluid and readable and this book contains all the significant Scrolls texts which are not either simply fragments or biblical texts. A useful added bonus is a series of essays by Vermes about the history, practices and theology of the Dead Sea Scrolls community.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for the student, scholar and curious, July 19 2002
By 
Gregory Maier (Concord, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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Vermes has again, in this updated version of the DSS in English, held fast to the clear-eyed scholarship that has been the hallmark of his work. Of course, the individual reader must ultimately decide for himself how objective Vermes is in his presentation. For example, I view with skepticism Vermes's assertion that the original language of 1 Enoch is, without doubt, Aramaic. Frankly, there is compelling evidence that the original story or stories that became Enoch were originally written in Ethiopic, or were tales that traveled from East to West via the Phoenicians. Other plausible theories abound.
Nonetheless, there are many gems here, and, in my opinion, this book contains one the most honest and pure translations of 1 Enoch (along with the fragments from the Book of Giants), complementing the tremendous service done to Enoch by James Charlesworth in "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature and Testaments (Old Testament Pseudepigraphia, Vol 1)."
When I was doing postgraduate work in theology and biblical history, I always wished for a book like this (i.e., Vermes' DSS as updated in 1997). This work is, in my opinion, ideal for those who wish to study alone, and even for use in organized church study groups. There's plenty of "light" here, and Vermes indicates and suggests where the reader might look without insisting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Latest Stunning Dispatches from the Desert, Feb. 23 2002
As a layman and absolute amateur with a deep passion for the Word of the Bible, I purchased and read Vermes' stunning English translation of the DSS upon its publication in 1997 and again recently in 2002.
This is no ordinary book but a work of profound importance. It is, as it were, the latest dispatch from the desert revealing Holy Writ hidden for two millennia!
1. Reading the DSS has a kalaidascopic effect on everything I have ever read, pondered or believed about the Tanakh -- it illuminates and enriches and startles at every turn.
2. A question for believers -- how many stars do you give to the Word of God?
3. This translation is magestic and lofty in tone, somewhat reminiscent of the KJV, but plain and unadorned. The editor's introductory chapters provide a grand overview of the history of the discovery of the scrolls and the benighted and myopic attempts of some to limit or halt their coming to light. Aside from this introduction Vermes nobly stands aside and lets the scrolls unfold their own message for the reader with a minimum of interruptive footnotes and scholarly asides.
4. Unfortunately this edition does not contain any complete or partial translations of books already found in the Tanakh/OT.
5. I am very impatient with the scholarly debates about the supposed messages and portents of the DSS. I, for one, don't need any ivory tower academic of whatever religious or political persuasion telling me what I ought to think about the words of the scrolls. I say, let the documents be published in full and speak for themselves! The Word will have out!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A word of caution about objections to this fine work, Dec 9 2000
By 
Napoleon (Louisville, KY USA) - See all my reviews
There is no better translation available to English language readers than this volume by Vermes. The objections registered by some ill-informed conspiracy-theorists concerning Vermes are themselves based on no real evidence. Vermes has an opinion, a very well-informed scholarly opinion, formed from years of study--honest study. He is not a flaming seeker of fortune and fame as are many people who try to make much more out of what is in the DSS than anyone can possible know. As one trained as a scholar in this area of study, I offer two observations: First, my own word of caution: Beware of DSS conspiracy theories and wild claims made from esoteric so-called readings of the texts. Second, my advice: Read the Scrolls in this fine translation for yourself and ask whether Vermes's ideas are reasonable or whether the wild allegorical re-readings offered by certain flamboyant interpreters have any real merit.
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Penguin Classics Complete Dead Sea Scrolls In English by Geza Vermes (Paperback - May 31 2004)
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