Page 21 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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they do not upset everything we knew previously. The layman
who thought everything he learned in Sunday School was un­
shakable, is shocked. Even the scholar who has closed his mind
and fallen into a state of mental inflexibility, may subconsciously
feel an urge to disregard the new evidence of the Scrolls. But
there are also scholars of many nations and various religious
backgrounds who are pursuing active and productive research
on Scroll problems on a rational, factual basis shared in common.
In scholarly circles, Jews, Catholics and Protestants can and do
talk the same language in discussing the ideas, the history and
other fundamental problems of the Scrolls.
Effect on Religious Beliefs
/ * The question is often asked: What effect will the Scrolls have
on religious beliefs? The established religious bodies have in
vthe past adjusted themselves to new factual knowledge and dis­
coveries. There is usually a time lag, but the adjustment is made
soQner^or later. If Judaism could survive without the slightest
difficulty—tiie intellectual readjustments necessitated by the
discovery _of BabylcTnlan civilization, and is now thriving the
better for thFlJlscowry of Ugaritic literature, it would tax the
limits oTp^ssinri^ to^regard the. Scrolls as_a^threat, to Judaism.
While I cannot see how the Scrolls will hurt Christianity as a
world religion, there are many and large Christian circles that
attach more weight to the uniqueness of miracles than Jews do.
The Assumptions of Enoch and Elijah are miracles attested in
the Hebrew Bible, and yet belief in them is of little, if any,
consequence among Jews. On the other hand, the Assumption
'of Jesus (and now also of Mary) among Catholics is quite
another matter to believing Christians. In this particular, as is
so often TKe~case, it is the emphasis, rather than the content, that
counts. We must recognize this differentiation if we are to under­
stand why the Scrolls are a more sensitive area for Christians
than for Jews.
The literature of the Qumran sectarians includes every book
of the Hebrew Bible except Esther. The omission of Esther is
undoubtedly due to tlie tact tnat^it was originally of interest
not to Jewry as a whole, but only to Persian Tewry. The book
depicts the world as the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces
of the Achaemenian Empire, from India to Ethiopia; but outside
of Iran, where the drama unfolds, the rest of the world is
peripheral and vague. For the Persian Jews in Iran today, Esther
remains the most important book in the Bible, and Purim the
most important holiday. In early Roman Palestine, Esther had
not yet won a secure place among the Sacred Writings.
The Biblical Scrolls agree fundamentally in meaning with the
Masoretic text printed in our Hebrew Bibles to this day. But the