Books in Brief
Fouilles de Khirbet Qumran et de Ain Feshkha
Jean-Baptiste Humbert and Alain Chambon
(Editions Universitaires Fribourg Suisse and Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht Gottingen, 1994) 418 pp. 220 Swiss francs. Available through the Biblical Archaeology Society (tel. 1–800-221–4644) for $175.
This extraordinary book of over 400 folio pages was instigated by a suggestion from former chief scroll editor John Strugnell and was prepared by Jean-Baptiste Humbert, Alain Chambon and their colleagues at the École Biblique et Archéologique in Jerusalem. Here they present to the public, as quickly and completely as possible, the raw materials from the excavations at Qumran from 1951 to 1957, directed by the École’s Père Roland de Vaux. Although de Vaux published numerous preliminary reports and some semi-popular lectures on the excavation, he died in 1971 without having written a final report.
As pressure to release photographs of the unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls built up in the late 1980s, the École decided to employ outside help to prepare the final report of de Vaux’s excavations. Their choice fell on a Belgian archaeologist, Robert Donceel of the Catholic University of Louvain. Regrettably, after the better part of a decade, it is now clear that this solution has not worked well. Donceel has withdrawn to a secondary position in favor of his wife, Pauline Donceel-Voûte, and may never produce a final report.
Neither of the Donceels had much previous experience in the archaeology of Second Temple Judaism or Palestine. Mme. Donceel-Voûte was an expert in mosaics, not an archaeologist. The Donceels have now developed an interpretation of the remains as a private winter villa. Their interpretation is not only at odds with de Vaux’s identification of the site as an isolated religious community, but has also failed in numerous respects, not just in its conclusion, to impress most experts in the field. At a recent seminar on the archaeology of Qumran at the Hebrew University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, Mme. Donceel-Voûte sought to defend her various understandings of the archaeology of the site; she left with her views in tatters, cut to pieces by scholars in attendance. Although the discussion was civil (with one prominent exception), the outcome was clear.
Meanwhile, the Donceels’ sponsors at the École Biblique have become impatient, and relationships have descended to near-animosity.
This book then reflects a wise decision to wait no longer, to offer the raw materials of the excavation to all who can use them.
Most of the book is devoted to 538 excavation pictures from Qumran (and environs, including Ein Feshkha and Mazin). In addition, the editors have included a catalog of 2,157 photographs from various archives, dating from 1946 (before the excavations) to 1992. The pictures come from the École Biblique, the Rockefeller Museum, the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, the American Schools of Oriental Research and the private collections of Richmond Brown and Jean Starcky (now deposited at the College de France in Paris).a
To assist in understanding the 538 reprinted photographs, 48 well-drawn plans are cleverly marked to key the photographs to the plans: On the plans, an arrow with a number indicates the point from which the numbered photograph was taken. Exceedingly helpful! In addition, where feasible, the loci numbers are printed right on the photographs for easy identification. White arrows on some pictures point to important features that might otherwise be difficult to find in the picture.
Perhaps in preparation for his 1959 British Academy lectures, which were later published under the English title Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls, de Vaux summarized his field notes, locus by locus. The volume under review also includes this extensive 78-page synthese.b As the editors state, this synthese “offers the best commentary on [the] excavation photographs.” (Stephen Pfann, director of the Center for the Study of Early Christianity in Jerusalem, is preparing an English translation of these 008notes that should be available within a year.)
The editors supplement each of de Vaux’s loci summaries with a list of the reprinted photographs and plans that apply to that locus, as well as the number of the pictures showing the objects and coins found in that locus.
Without being defensive, the editors candidly state, “Today, [de Vaux’s] interpretation of the site and the chronology established by his team are an object of legitimate criticism. With the present documentation at hand, scholars of different disciplines will at last be able to assess Father de Vaux’s arguments on the basis of the fully documented archaeological record.” How refreshing!
Had the usual procedures been followed, other scholars could have studied the excavations only after the Donceels published their interpretation.
Whatever the motivation for publishing this material now, the decision is indeed commendable.
The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism
(New York: Doubleday, 1992) 450 pp., $35.00
This stimulating book attempts to understand Jewish nationalism between 200 B.C.E. and 135 C.E. within the context of nationalism in the Hellenistic world. Doron Mendels, professor of ancient history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, focuses on four symbols of nationalism: the Temple, territory, kingship and the army. He argues that the decline and fall of Jewish nationalism during this period resulted chiefly from two factors: the rift between non-Jews and Jews in Palestine and what he terms the “schizophrenic” situation within Jewish society, in which various groups had contradictory interpretations of nationalism.
Mendels uses the First and Second Books 010of Maccabees, Josephus and the New Testament as major sources for reconstructing the history of this period. They all present special problems. In particular, using Josephus to reconstruct the history of Jewish nationalism, even with Mendels’s commendable sensitivity and care, is like relying on Glubb Pasha (the former British officer who commanded the Arab Legion) for a history of modern Israel. Josephus, who commanded the Jewish forces in Galilee during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome (66–73 C.E.), surrendered and went to Rome, where he wrote his historical books under the aegis of imperial Rome.
Thus Mendels concludes that the violent, revolutionary, nationalistic group of Jews in Palestine was marginal in Judaism during this period, but this supposedly marginal group was responsible for no fewer than four major revolts—that of the Maccabees in 167–164 B.C.E., the First Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66–73 C.E., the war of Quietus in 115–117 C.E. and the Bar-Kokhba rebellion of 132–135 C.E. (also known as the Second Revolt against Rome). Mendels claims that only passive political nationalism remained alive after the Bar-Kokhba rebellion; but messianism, with all its political implications, remained as strong as ever, if we may judge from the numerous messiahs (and the popular following they aroused) that arose in Jewish history thereafter.
Mendels contends that the main goal for most Jews in the Maccabean revolt was not a free Jewish state but the freedom to worship in Jerusalem. But if that was so, why did not Josephus, who certainly opposed Jewish nationalism, say this? In particular, why does Josephus omit the role of the Hasidim, who originally joined in the war against Antiochus IV Epiphanes but who were, according to 1 Maccabees (which Josephus follows closely), the first to withdraw from the struggle once the Syrian Greeks made an offer of peace that guaranteed the right of the Jews to practice their religion?
With Herod, according to Mendels, the Jews became just one segment of a non-Jewish state. But Herod’s recognition by some as the messiah, as reported by the fourth-century church father Epiphanius, would indicate that he maintained some degree of popularity. Moreover, Mendels overlooks the dependence of the Hasmoneans on the good will of the Romans and even, to a considerable degree, the Syrian Greeks, when he writes of Herod as destroying, in the eyes of a great part of the population, “the magnificent Hasmonean dynasty that was the symbol of independent Jewish existence in the Land of Israel.”
Mendels takes the New Testament, from Jesus to Paul, at face value in seeing a sharpening dissociation of the early Christians from the political nationalism that ultimately led to the Jewish revolt against the Romans. But the New Testament also includes numerous statements to the contrary, most notably the question put to Jesus by his disciples after his death: “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). This question would surely have been understood in political terms, as was the term “messiah,” by the great majority of Jews.
For Mendels, the chief causes of the revolt of 66 were that the land was full of non-Jews, that the Jews’ king was gone and their army dispersed and that the Temple was in the hands of hated families of high priests. Although these are certainly valid reasons, Mendels fails to consider the economic divisions within the Jewish community and the misrule of Judea by the procurators, recognized even by the fiercely anti-Jewish historian Tacitus.
Despite these objections, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism has much to recommend it. It presents a challenging thesis based upon an extraordinary knowledge of primary and secondary sources. General readers will also enjoy Mendels’s lively style.
Fouilles de Khirbet Qumran et de Ain Feshkha