The story of the discovery of the first Dead Sea Scrolls has become a part of Western lore. Who has not heard about the Bedouin shepherd who threw a rock into a cave, heard a crash, went in to explore, and found the scrolls? The story in that form may be accurate, but it turns out to be something of a simplification. As a matter of fact, much remains unknown about the exact circumstances under which those scrolls were discovered. The story of the discovery at first deals with just one cave; the other ten were located at later times.
This sweeping and up-to-the-minute introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls includes many recent developments in Scrolls research, bringing readers current information on new DNA dating techniques, discoveries in linguistics, and archaeological findings. VanderKam (The Dead Sea Scrolls Today) and Flint (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible) are clearly experts in their field, familiar with all the major (and minor) issues at stake. At times, they become submerged in questions that only other specialists will care about, or render unnecessarily detailed information on particular points (for example, providing a paragraph on each of the major photographers who have worked with the Scrolls, or debating the intricacies of Paleo-Hebrew). Despite these forays into arcana, the authors usually manage to keep their prose free of scholarly jargon. Moreover, the accessible design is first-rate, with helpful sidebars and information boxes to aid the reader. VanderKam and Flint pay special attention to the Scrolls' relationship with biblical and apocryphal literature, offering nuanced discussions of the formation of the biblical canon and the development of various lines of scribal transmission. One section deals with the non-biblical Scrolls and attempts to reveal more about the Qumran community, with VanderKam and Flint coming down heavily in favor of Essene authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Overall, this is a superb introduction to all of the major points, though novice readers may wish to skim the more concentrated academic debates. (Dec.) Forecast: This well-illustrated guide can serve as either a textbook for classroom use or an introduction for general readers, and as such will find a core audience of Scrolls enthusiasts. A foreword by Emanuel Tov, the Director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project, should help sales in the academic community. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.