There was a time when the only books in English which could be recommended to the general reader who wished to know something about the Dead Sea Scrolls were Professor H. H. Rowley’s fine study, The Zadokite Fragments and the Dead Sea Scrolls (1952) and translations of two books by the French scholar A. Dupont-Sommer—The Dead Sea Scrolls (1952) and The Jewish Sect of Qumran and the Essenes (1954). Professor Rowley’s book did not appear until the author had taken time to digest the material offered by the new discoveries and its relation to material already known; the result was a mature contribution to the literature of the subject, marked by his well-known qualities of sound learning, good judgment and bibliographical comprehensiveness. Although his study must be amplified and perhaps modified here and there in the light of subsequent discoveries, it is a work of abiding value.
Professor Dupont-Sommer’s books were also marked by high scholarship, but judicial qualities were not so much in evidence in them as in Professor Rowley’s book. In fact, Professor Dupont-Sommer’s second volume represents in part a “phased withdrawal” from positions taken up too lightly in its predecessor—in particular, his suggestion that the Servant Songs of Isaiah 42–53 reflected the actual experiences of the Qumran Teacher of Righteousness, who (as he was inclined to think) suffered martyrdom shortly before the Roman conquest of Judea in 63 B.C., and his conclusion that Jesus “appears in many respects as an astonishing reincarnation of the Teacher of Righteousness.” Even so, we must bear in mind that the cause of learning has often been promoted by scholars who were prepared to take a risk and expose their brain-waves to the pitiless criticism of others. And this has certainly been the upshot of the discussion of Professor Dupont-Sommer’s provisional suggestions.
Apart from these, there were a few shorter studies. In 1950 Professor G. R. Driver delivered a lecture to the Friends of Dr. Williams’ Library, which was published by the Oxford University Press the following year under the title The Hebrew Scrolls. In this paper Professor Driver issued a warning against what he considered the over-hasty publication of dogmatic statements about the date and provenience of the scrolls; he maintained that other possibilities should be kept in mind, and expressed his own preference for a dating between A.D. 200 and 500. While further evidence appears to confirm the view that the scrolls belong to the period before A.D. 70, Professor Driver’s warning was wise and timely. In 1954 Dr. W. J. Martin, head of the Semitic department in Liverpool, delivered the sixth Campbell Morgan Memorial Lecture in Westminster Chapel, London; it was published as a pamphlet entitled The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, and presented an excellent survey of the significance of the complete Isaiah manuscript found in the first Qumran cave.
But more recently books on the scrolls have been appearing in rapid succession. There is quite clearly a large public appetite for them on both sides of the Atlantic. One work which did much to whet this appetite was Edmund Wilson’s book, The Scrolls from the Dead Sea (1955). Mr. Wilson is a distinguished literary critic, and his book (expanded from a long and informative article which appeared in The New Yorker of May 14, 1955) provides a vivid account of the exploration of the caves and the discovery of the manuscripts, with vigorous pen-portraits of such personalities as Father Roland de Vaux and the Syrian Archbishop Athanasius Yeshue Samuel. When he comes to the interpretation of the discoveries, he shows a clear preference for the views of Professor Dupont-Sommer, but agrees that the criticism of scholarly theories is best left to scholars. He imagines that the subject is boycotted by New Testament specialists—a curious notion to entertain, although he is not alone in entertaining it. In fact, New Testament specialists, when they foregather, evince even greater excitement about the scrolls than their Old Testament colleagues do. In Great Britain and Europe, New Testament scholars of the calibre of Matthew Black, Oscar Cullmann, Bo Reicke and K. G. Kuhn have made important contributions to the study and understanding of the scrolls, and articles on the subject appear regularly in the leading New Testament Journals. Mr. Wilson has, moreover, a suspicion that scholars who are committed to the Christian or the Jewish faith (especially the clergy) are beset by inhibitions which make it difficult for them to appraise the significance of the scrolls with equanimity. The present writer, as a lay teacher of biblical studies in a secular university, thinks that this suspicion is quite unfounded; those who give expression to it might be displeased if it were mildly suggested that secular humanists may be influenced in their thinking by their own inhibitions.
In spite of these weaknesses, however, Mr. Wilson’s book has very real merits. The same can scarcely be said of The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls by A. Powell Davies (1956). Mr. Davies, formerly an English Methodist, is now pastor of a Unitarian church in Washington, D.C. His personal position in Gospel studies is suggested by the inclusion of a portrait of Dr. Albert Schweitzer among the illustrations in his book, although he says that the new discoveries have proved Dr. Schweitzer wrong in his belief that “the Baptist and Jesus are not … borne upon the current of a general eschatological movement.” We can now view their ministry in the context of the eschatological movement of Qumran. But this is not the same thing as saying that the Qumran movement was the current upon which John the Baptist and our Lord were borne. If John did have an earlier association with Qumran, it was a new and genuinely prophetic impulse that sent him out with his baptismal preaching of repentance in preparation for the advent of the Coming One. We should not, however, hold Mr. Davies responsible for the publisher’s blurb which describes the scrolls as “the greatest challenge to Christian dogma since Darwin’s theory of evolution.”
Uniqueness Of Christ
In reply to tendencies such as these Father Geoffrey Graystone, a Roman Catholic priest of the Marist order, has written a short and modest study entitled The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Originality of Jesus (1956). He probably underestimates the possible contacts between Qumran and the New Testament, but he concludes, quite rightly: “The perusal of the scrolls side by side with the gospels and the New Testament does but bring into greater relief the uniquenesss of Christ and the transcendence of the religion which he founded.” True; but Christians must bear in mind that the uniqueness and originality of Christ reside primarily in his person and work, whereas parallels to his sayings are forthcoming both before and after his time. Whatever affinities may be traced between the biblical interpretation current in the Qumran community and that which the early Church inherited from her founder, we can best indicate the real distinctiveness of Christianity by asking if anyone has ever found peace with God through the death of the Teacher of righteousness, as millions have found it through the death of Christ.
A Reliable Account
It is a pleasure to turn to a book which is not concerned with presenting a special point of view but which gives a reliable account of the discovery of the scrolls and of their contents and significance. This is The Dead Sea Scrolls, by Millar Burrows (1955). Of all the books on the subject which have appeared thus far, this book by Professor Burrows is the one which can be most confidently recommended to the general reader. It contains as an appendix a useful translation of some of the most important Qumran texts and has a serviceable bibliography. Unfortunately, it has no index, and this is a sad omission even for the general reader.
Mr. John M. Allegro of Manchester University, one of the international team of scholars who is engaged in piecing together and editing the fragmentary documents in the Palestine Archaeological Museum, had hit the headlines with a series of controversial broadcasts on this subject before the publication of his Pelican book The Dead Sea Scrolls (1956). This is a most readable book, which does full justice to the genuine romance both in the discovery and acquisition of the scrolls, and in their decipherment and interpretation. Mr. Allegro has been severely criticized for running too far ahead of the evidence, especially in his impressive picture of the crucifixion of the Teacher of righteousness at the hands of Alexander Jannaeus—a picture for which the documentary support is so slender as to be unsubstantial. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that Mr. Allegro has deserved well of all students of the Qumran literature by making available some important texts from the fourth cave in recent issues of the Palestine Exploration Quarterly and the Journal of Biblical Literature. He is probably right in identifying the Teacher’s enemy, the “wicked priest,” with Alexander Jannaeus, king of Judea from 103 to 76 B.C., but it must be said that none of the documents thus far published gives us any information of the manner of the Teacher’s death, or “gathering in,” as it was called.
Professor Charles T. Fritsch of Princeton Theological Seminary has reconstructed the life and history of the sect from which these documents came in The Qumran Community (1956). He identifies the community with a branch of the Essenes. There is archaeological evidence that the community headquarters were abandoned for thirty years or thereby in the time of Herod the Great (37–4 B.C.). Dr. Fritsch relates this evidence with the evidence from the Zadokite Documents which is commonly interpreted in terms of a migration of the community to the neighborhood of Damascus. The Zadokite Documents first came to light in two mutilated manuscripts discovered in the genizah or store-room of the synagogue in Old Cairo towards the end of last century; further fragments have now been found in the Qumran caves, and it is plain that the community of which we already knew something from the Zadokite Documents was identical with the Qumran community. A reference should be made here to the splendid edition of The Zadokite Documents, in the Hebrew text with English translation and notes, by Dr. Chaim Rabin (1954).
A translation of a wide selection of the Qumran texts has been prepared by Dr. Theodor H. Gaster—The Dead Sea Scriptures (1956). While the translation is rather free, the English is powerful and elegant. Dr. Gaster adds a few notes expressive of his own views, which whet our appetite for a full-length study of the significance of Qumran which he hopes to publish in due course.
Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield, already well known as historian of Jewish Christianity and translator of the New Testament, has ventilated some original views on the Qumran texts in Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1956). He propounds an unusual chronological order in dating the documents and the stages of the community’s resident at Qumran; he makes use of the rabbinical cipher called atbash as a key to unlock some of the conundrums found in the texts, and he suggests that the reason for storing the manuscripts in the caves shortly before A.D. 70 was not so much to protect them from the Romans as to make sure that the elect in the coming age of fulfilment might have access to books which would provide them with all necessary enlightenment for the days through which they were to pass.
This survey should not end without an appreciative reference to the indefatigable efforts of Dr. Solomon Zeitlin to convince his fellow-scholars that they are all following a false trail in using texts which he believes to be medieval for the reconstruction of a phase of Jewish life and belief in the closing decades of the Second Temple. He has done this for several years now in successive numbers of the Jewish Quarterly Review, and his main arguments have been published in a monograph, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Modern Scholarship (1956). Dr. Zeitlin has convinced few of us, but he has certainly played the part of a Socratic gadfly, stinging us into alertness lest we reach false conclusions through faulty arguments based on insufficient evidence. Herein he deserves our sincere gratitude, for in the study of the Qumran texts as in even more important matters it is best to practise the Pauline injunction: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
Preacher In The Red
EVERYTHING BUT THE GROOM
In a former pastorate, Widow A, member of my church and very attractive, was reported to be receiving the attentions of a very fine and sturdy widower from a nearby city, whose calls were growing in frequency. At last, my friend reported, “Mr. B’s car is parked in front of Mrs. A’s home almost every day now. The case seems to be growing very warm. You’ll probably get a call before long.”
Within two or three days after that warning, my study phone rang early one morning, and Mrs. A, in a particularly happy voice, asked if I might come to her home at once. Of course, I was able! Being accustomed to preparing myself for contingencies, I slipped into my pocket the items necessary for a wedding, and was on my way.
The merry widow, her face wreathed in smiles, ushered me into the living room, where a strong and sturdy masculine figure rose from the davenport. She asked, “Do you know this gentleman?” Unfortunate me! I mentioned the name of widower B. The lady gasped, mentioned her visitor’s name and rushed to the kitchen. It was her own cousin, a minister under whose preaching I had sat in my college student days, his heavy and flowing mustache shaved off! Widow A and Widower B were married within two weeks, but I was not asked to officiate.—CHARLES R. MURRAY, Minister, Presbyterian-Christian Church, Tishomingo, Okla.
For each report by a minister of the Gospel of an embarrassing moment in his life, CHRISTIANITY TODAY will pay $5 (upon publication). To be acceptable, anecdotes must narrate factually a personal experience, and must be previously unpublished. Contributions should not exceed 250 words, should be typed double-spaced, and bear the writer’s name and address. Upon acceptance, such contributions become the property of CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Address letters to: Preacher in the Red, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Suite 1014 Washington Building, Washington, D.C.
From his colorful role in Korea, where he served as senior U.N. truce delegate at Panmunjom, Lt. Gen. William K. Harrison went to the Canal Zone as commander in chief of the Caribbean Command, U.S. Armed Forces. A distinguished Christian soldier, now 61, he retired from his military career this February, and plans to devote his efforts to the Evangelical Welfare Agency, a service organization of the National Association of Evangelicals.
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