BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

The quickest sort of read ...

O.K., so this one is almost "cheating" ... I'd gotten this about the same time as the Dead Sea Scrolls book that I finished (and reviewed) a week ago, but I didn't realize at the time I ordered it that it ... well ... that it wasn't really in English! Yes, the Foreword and Introduction and various editorial bits are in English, but the other 120 or so pages of the book consist of print-outs of 1st Century Hebrew and Aramaic texts ... neither of which I can even begin to decipher! Needless to say, I'd sort of assumed that there would have been some translation involved, but that's not the case, no doubt due to the "scholarly audience" for which A Preliminary Edition Of The Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls: The Hebrew And Aramaic Texts From Cave Four - Fascicle One was intended.

As anyone familiar with the Dead Sea Scrolls is aware, there are some really twisted "academic politics" involved with their publication. Various texts were "assigned" to a small group of experts back in the 50's, and the vast majority of these texts have not as yet been officially published. This current volume was sort of produced "on the sly", having been based on a concordance of texts which listed all the words in the Cave 4 material (which was all very fragmentary, possibly having been intentionally destroyed by Roman troops at the time of the suppression of the Qumran community associated with them). The concordance, while not reproducing any of the texts themselves, did list all the words in the texts and the words that appeared on either side of them. Obviously, in the 1950's this was a pretty locked-down way of providing some information, but the "author" of this volume, Ben Zion Wacholder, wondered what would happen (in the late 80's) if he fed the data into a computer. Remarkably, a very coherent set of texts resulted from this experiment, and he decided that he would publish this outside the purview of the "official" Scroll teams. Again, there has been a very high level of scholarly frustration with the speed at which the Dead Sea Scroll material has been being released, so, as put in the opening words of Hershel Shanks' Foreword "This is a historic book.", allowing researchers access to materials that might have languished under jealous control for decades or more.

I, of course, don't have the linguistic tools necessary to really make use of this book, but was eager to get a copy, as rare as the source material is. Needless to say, I wouldn't suggest that anybody run out to get their own copy of A Preliminary Edition Of The Unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls unless you are a 1st Century Biblical scholar (and I'd suspect that were you one, you would have already picked up a copy of this in the 15 years since it appeared!) ... but it is a fascinating thing to have.

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Tags: book review
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