Thursday, November 08, 2012

DSS miscellany

STEPHEN GORANSON sends in links to some current stories on the Dead Sea Scrolls:

First, at the Scrolls exhibition at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, a lecture by Weston Fields:
Tuesday, December 04 - Dr. Weston Fields [+]

“100 New Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments From Qumran Cave 4: How Did It Happen?”
Weston Fields

Director, Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation

Weston W. Fields has traveled across the Middle East, Europe and the United States to interview every person he could find who was involved in the original excavation and examination of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He has amassed a large collection of papers and archives related to the first scrolls scholars, especially the famous Qumran Cave 4 Team.

Over the past two decades, Dr. Fields has worked closely with the editors of the official publication of the scrolls, “Discoveries in the Judaean Desert,” and has himself published “The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Full History, Volume 1” and “The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Short History.” He earned his doctorate at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Then, a new book from OUP by Prof. Joan Taylor of Kings College London:
The Essenes, the Scrolls, and the Dead Sea
Joan E. Taylor
448 pages | 56 figures, colour plate section | 234x156mm
978-0-19-955448-5 | Hardback | 15 November 2012
Price: £30.00

Presents a solution to the mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls
Clearly sets out the history and archaeology of Qumran
Offers a new understanding of the Essenes (and New Testament 'Herodians') in ancient Judaism, from the surviving literary sources
Explores the rich history of ancient medicine and pharmacology, and the uses of the Dead Sea in antiquity
Carefully illustrated with maps, illustrations, and colour photographs

Ever since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in caves near the site of Qumran in 1947, this mysterious cache of manuscripts has been associated with the Essenes, a 'sect' configured as marginal and isolated. Scholarly consensus has held that an Essene library was hidden ahead of the Roman advance in 68 CE, when Qumran was partly destroyed. With much doubt now expressed about aspects of this view, the Essenes, the Scrolls and the Dead Sea systematically reviews the surviving historical sources, and supports an understanding of the Essenes as an influential legal society, at the centre of Judaean religious life, held in much esteem by many and protected by the Herodian dynasty, thus appearing as 'Herodians' in the Gospels.

Opposed to the Hasmoneans, the Essenes combined sophisticated legal expertise and autonomy with an austere regimen of practical work, including a specialisation in medicine and pharmacology. Their presence along the north-western Dead Sea is strongly indicated by two independent sources, Dio Chrysostom and Pliny the Elder, and coheres with the archaeology. The Dead Sea Scrolls represent not an isolated library, quickly hidden, but burials of manuscripts from numerous Essene collections, placed in jars in caves for long-term preservation. The historical context of the Dead Sea area itself, and its extraordinary natural resources, as well as the archaeology of Qumran, confirm the Essenes' patronage by Herod, and indicate that they harnessed the medicinal material the Dead Sea zone provides to this day.

Readership: Students and scholars of Qumran studies; of biblical archaeology; of Jewish studies; of biblical studies; of ancient history. General readers interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Third, a story of Scrolls skullduggery which we should take with a grain of salt, pending further coverage:
Dead Sea Manuscripts

Swiss detectives are trying to work out how a previously unknown dead sea scroll worth up to 30 million GBP ended up in the suitcase of a Romanian tourist stopped during a random search by customs officials.


A police spokesman said: "The man had a full set of documentation proving the authenticity of the scroll including an estimate of its value, which was around 40 million Swiss Francs (27 million GBP)."

Police say that because of the remote location of the site where the original scrolls were found many had been looted and sold on the black market, and they suspect that if proven to be genuine - the current scroll was probably worth the money that the Romanian man's paperwork suggested.
It is rumored that there are still Dead Sea Scroll fragments on the antiquities market which have an asking price of millions of dollars (which is probably why they remain on the market). If there really is something out there worth 27 million British Pounds ($43 million), it must be very special indeed. Count me skeptical.

Also, a recent review of the SWBTS exhibition is here. And there's lots of background on the exhibition here and links.