UNDERSTANDING THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS by Hershel Shanks

UNDERSTANDING THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Outstanding anthology, drawn in part from The Biblical Archaeological Review and The Bible Review, that serves as a complete primer to what biblical scholar Harry Thomas Frank has called ``the most sensational archaeological discovery of the century.'' Shanks, editor of The Biblical Archaeological Review, has a flair for drama, evident both in the many essays here about the intrigue that swirls around the scrolls--spies, conspiracy theories, and shadowy antique-dealers all play their part--and in his two final selections. One of these is a reprint of the infamous newspaper interview with Harvard professor John Strugnell that led to Strugnell's ouster as chief editor of the scrolls on charges of incompetence and anti-Semitism; the other is a skewering by Shanks of Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh's recently published The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception (not reviewed), which imagines a Vatican coverup in scroll research: Shanks calls the theory ``hogwash.'' Other essays juggle other hot potatoes: Was Jesus an Essene? Is the Temple Scroll a lost sixth book of the Torah? What light do the scrolls shed on Christianity and Judaism? Contributors range from world-class scholars (Frank Moore Cross, James C. Vanderkam, et al.) to journalists and filmmakers; in the midst of hot debate on the provenance and message of the scrolls, a clear consensus emerges--that the scrolls constitute an invaluable archaeological window onto the world that gave birth to both Christianity and rabbinical Judaism, but that they contain no bombshells that threaten tenets of either faith. Exciting and reliable, and thus a superb replacement for Edmund Wilson's pioneering but hysterical (and hopelessly out-of- date) 1955 bestseller, Scrolls from the Dead Sea.

Pub Date: July 27th, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41448-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992