Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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This derives from the plain fact that the Scrolls are of much
greater import for the Christian than for the Jew. Roman
Palestine is only a chapter in Judaism; for Christianity it is
the matrix and basis of all that followed. Accordingly, all
Christian scholars of Christianity are interested in, and the less
sophisticated but curious laity is worried about, Christian claims
to uniqueness. Jewish scholars are also active, but at another
level. They are writing monographs, often of high calibre,
delving into the problems of the Scrolls with reference to other
Jewish sources. The Scrolls are of great interest for Judaism of
the Biblical, Hellenistic and Roman periods. Yet the bearing of
the Scrolls on the Hebrew Bible pertains to textual criticism
rather than to historic content. Therefore, Jewish interest in the
Scrolls takes on the form of intellectual curiosity rather than
misgivings and concern for the future of Judaism. The Israeli
publications (mainly in Hebrew) are of the first magnitude,
including as they do the actual source material of the original
find at Qumran, now housed in the Israeli sector of Jerusalem.
hese books and other Israeli studies about the Scrolls are
objective, for Jewish writers do not feel impelled to comfort their
readers with assurances that the Faith will not be upset. While
the Jewish laity is often interested in the new discoveries, it is
definitely not worried about them.
The basic problems concerning the Scrolls are no longer those
that were hotly debated a few years ago. Doubts as to their
authenticity anti-date have been dispelled, and there is now
a consensus of judgment among scholars. But since the layman
is not always clear why there is now general agreement, it may
be in place to state the evidence. At Murabbaat (about 12
miles south of Qumran), manuscripts were found dated from the
rebellion of Bar Kochba (132-135 C .E .). The Qumran Scrolls
are older paleographically (i.e., in style of writing), tying in
/with the evidence of the Qumran coins that the Qumran Scrolls
were hidden away about 68 C.E. The Scrolls were copied during
the century or two prior to that date; this much is certain.
Numerous chronological problems in detail remain to be worked
\ out, but the approximate date of the Scrolls is no longer in
doubt. The carbon-14 test conhrms tms date, but as of now, the
“old fashionecl” inscriptional, paleographic, ceramic and numis­
matic evidence is more precise than carbon-14 for the literate
periods of history.
To the person who never grappled with the problems of the
Bible in the light of comparative materials, the Scrolls can come
as a violent bomb burst. To the seasoned scholar familiar with
other Near East cultures, with Rabbinic literature, with the
Church Fathers, with Hellenistic writings, or with Apocrypha and
Pseudepigrapha, the Scrolls are important and interesting, but
not astounding. They fit into a historic picture and enhance it;