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Delay, Deception and Delivery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by R. Eisenmann and M. Wise
The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered (NY:  Barnes and Noble, 1994.  286p.)

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This was one of those serendipitous purchases.  While on a visit with relatives in 2003, I ran across this book in a mall in Elmira, New York.  The authors present here the Hebrew or Aramaic text of the 55 best-quality scrolls from the Qumran Community, with their English translation and comments and background from the translators.

This was the first publication of many of these texts, and the first translation and interpretation by a truly international independent group of scholars.  This is also the first publication of Dead Sea Scrolls processed by historians.  The early, highly proprietary group were primarily linguists and theologians, and the Dominican École Biblique denied other scholars access to the scrolls for many years.

There has been much written trying to place or deflect blame, or discount the problem of the delay of decades in the release of the Qumran documents for scholarly and public view.  The authors of this volume provide excellent historical background and connections with the individual texts presented here.

One of these earlier books criticizing the orignal committee was written by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh.  They agitated constantly for access to the scrolls for all international scholars.  They expressed the desire for a truly representative and open team of editors, distrusting the motives and methods of the École Biblique. This book was called the The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, and received some measure of acclaim.  But it was also discounted by a number of scholars who in their turn distrusted Baigent and Leigh's own motives.  It is to be noted that they do seem to have a penchant for conspiracy theories.

Comparative Analysis
The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered provides extensive critical comparisons of these 55 Qumran documents with Old Testament, historical and New Testament texts.  These authors critically analyze conceptual themes, verbal usage and theological implications of the Qumran community.  Many themes and terminology found in the New Testament and other early Christian literature appear in the Qumran documents presented here.  These authors love their work and this comes through clearly.

The texts published and analyzed here appear to definitively disprove the early "Essene" theory of Qumran.  These authors certainly are satisfied.  However, much study has been done by specialists since this book was written, and these authors are writing from a somewhat polemical and defensive position, due to their personal history in the acrimonious politics that delayed the public release of the Qumran documents.  Many books have been published in the last 5-6 years, and the Essene-Qumran connection seems quite solid.  Much work in several disciplines has enabled a much more complete picture than just a few years ago.

How Many Messiahs?
Eisenmann and Wise also conclude that these texts seem to clearly present the concepts of a single Messiah, with both David kingly traits and priestly traits, not the two-Messiah idea proposed in earlier theories based on limited texts.  Though I still see some reference to two messiahs, it does seem that the weight of scholarship by 2006 does lean toward the concept of one messiah figure.  Books are coming out all the time on Qumran texts and related analyses and proposals.  So this will be an interesting factor to watch.

From the analysis of these two authors, as well, these texts clarify that the Qumran community was NOT opposed to the Temple priesthood, although they were purists in terms of procedure.  The author's commentaries also clarify the distinction between different "Sadducee" (Zadok) groups, pre-Herod and in the Herodian period.

Different Sadducees
They also clarify that during the Herodian period, which includes the events of the New Testament Gospels, there were two groups of Sadducees even then.  One group was non-collaborative, while the prominent Sadducees were aligned with (the authors say dominated by) the Pharisees, in their cooperation with the Roman authorities.  This explains much about the situation the life of Jesus and the events in his last days before crucifixion.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review] Dead Sea Insights and Alternatives
[review] The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Origins of Christianity
[review] Religion in the Dead Sea Scrolls
[review] Thessalonica, Qumran and the Cult of the Emperor

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Primary review notes written February 2006
Expanded and finalized as a review essay on Amazon 30 December 2006
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 2 January 2007
Last edited 27 February 2009

Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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