The Dead Sea Scrolls Today

Written by James C. VanderKam Reviewed By Craig Blomberg

News reports make wildly erroneous claims about the recently translated or as yet untranslated Dead Sea Scrolls—they are alleged to undermine the very foundations of Christianity. Sensationalizing ‘scholarship’ can at times prove only a little less misleading—R. Eisenmann’s claim that a fragment speaks of a ‘pierced Messiah’ or B Thiering’s musings that the key people of Qumran are ‘code words’ for New Testament characters! Where can one get an up-to-date, accurate introduction? This is the book.

VanderKam is professor of Hebrew Scriptures in Notre Dame and member of the international team of translators and editors of the remaining scroll fragments. In this concise survey, he puts layperson and scholar alike in touch with the history and current state of DSS research. He begins by describing the discoveries of the manuscripts—biblical, apocryphal and pseudepigraphical, and sectarian (i.e., the literature unique to the Qumran community). He ably defends the still standard conclusion that the Jews who lived in this group were Essenes, though noting the problems with and alternatives to this hypothesis. He traces the history of the more than 200-year lifespan of the sect and synthesizes its theological and ritual perspectives.

Particularly helpful major sections, usually unparalleled in previous books of this genre, detail the impact of the scrolls on Old and New Testament studies—textual criticism, questions of the canon, Jewish origins of Christianity, and the like. Each chapter concludes with well-selected bibliographies for further research. Always fair, judicious, and representing the mainstream of scholarship, this book will immediately take its place as the most reliable introduction to the statis questionis of DSS research.

Craig Blomberg

Craig Blomberg
Denver Seminary
Denver, Colorado, USA