Almost 50 years after the discovery of the first of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls in a desert cave, the most comprehensive collection of the ancient documents has been published in English.

The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (HarperCollins) is the work of a new generation of scholars whose first task was to win access to the portion of the documents their elders did not yet want to make public. Editors Martin Abegg, Edward Cook, and Michael Wise have assembled all but the most minute of the previously unknown nonbiblical texts found in the Qumran caves. Many of them describe the beliefs and activities of the community that collected the scrolls, thought by most scholars to have been Essenes.

This commemorative edition contains almost 300 texts, about 200 more than the collection edited by Geza Vermes that has been available for a number of years.

"The book could be used by specialists, but it's friendly to nonspecialists," says Cook of Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati. He is excited about giving lay readers access to previously unknown psalms attributed to King David, a commentary on the patriarchs of Genesis, and the rest of the writings, which are at least 2,000 years old.

He says another volume on the biblical manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls is in the works.

Abegg, now a professor at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, was a graduate student at huc in 1991 when he used a computerized concordance to assemble his own copies of some of the restricted-access scroll fragments (CT, Oct. 7, 1991, p. 48). Then the Huntington Library in California decided to open its archive of scroll photos, and within weeks all scholars were finally allowed to look at the complete collection.

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December 9, 1996

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