A new generation of Dead Sea Scroll scholars may change our understanding of the history of Judaism and Christianity. Deeply immersed himself in Scroll research, Lawrence H. Schiffman surveys “The Significance of the Scrolls.” Recently granted a peek at the long awaited, but still-unpublished, text known as MMT, Schiffman assesses this document and finds in it evidence that the origin of the Qumran sect is Sadducean, rather than Essene.
Schiffman is professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, where he also serves as director of graduate studies in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. During the 1989–1990 academic year, he was a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where he spent the past year as part of a research group dealing with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The most recent of his six books are The Eschatological Community of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Scholars Press, 1989), Text and Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav, 1990) and, as editor, Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Sheffield/ASOR, 1990).
Futility, toil, oppression, brevity, darkness, inequity, stupidity, death—do those sound like the themes of a modern, existentialist French novel to you? They also happen to be the themes of a literary work produced not in post-Second World War Paris but in Israel two-and-a-half millennia ago and now safely ensconced in the canon of the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes. James L. Crenshaw, in “Ecclesiastes—Odd Book In,” guides us through one of the Bible’s darkest and most perplexing books. In addition to surveying the sometimes contradictory ideas running through the work, Crenshaw examines the various literary styles employed in Ecclesiastes and takes up the problem of what parts of the book are original and what are later additions.
With so many of the ideas in Ecclesiastes seeming perfectly at ease even in modern times, it’s no surprise that the book influences writers and thinkers right up to our own day. For a sense of just how influential Ecclesiastes has been and continues to be, turn to “Reaching Out to the 20th Century,” by Daniel Pawley. You’ll learn, among other things, why Ernest Hemingway invoked Ecclesiastes in his novel The Sun Also Rises and how George Orwell used Ecclesiastes to decry vapid writing.
Crenshaw is professor of Old Testament at Duke University’s Divinity School. His wide professional experience includes service on the executive committee of the Society of Biblical Literature. His books include Old Testament Wisdom: An Introduction (John Knox, 1981), Story and Faith: A Guide to the Old Testament (Macmillan, 1986) and Ecclesiastes (Westminster, 1987). Crenshaw is currently preparing the New Century Bible Commentary on Proverbs and the Anchor Bible Series volume on Joel.
Pawley is assistant professor of communications at Northwestern College, St. Paul, Minnesota. He has written on literature and on Middle Eastern history, including articles on E. M. Forster’s work for the Red Cross in Alexandria, Egypt and on Mark Twain’s and Herman Melville’s travels to the Middle East. Pawley has also participated in archaeological excavations at Lachish, in Israel.
The phrase “Old Testament prophet” may conjure up, to many, images of humorless old men with long beards uttering dire warnings of impending doom. In fact, the prophets, spanning many centuries and active in many places throughout ancient Israel (and sometimes beyond), bequeathed to us a body of literature of timeless religious and ethical value. So large is this literature that many a great biblical scholar would shy away from taking it in its entirety. But Margaret Parker, adopting the role of sensitive reader rather than textual critic, has undauntedly waded into this literature for the purpose of “Exploring Four Persistent Prophetic Images.” She describes a group of powerful literary images used over and over again by the prophets—even those separated by centuries—to evoke a sometimes turbulent four-act drama between God and his people.
Parker is currently teaching a seminar at New College Berkeley, where she received her master’s degree in biblical studies, on imaginative strategies for Bible teachers to help students appreciate the literary power of scripture. She has been leading Bible and book study groups for 12 years. Her book, Unlocking the Power of God’s Word, will be published by InterVarsity Press in early 1991.
Natural history and biblical history both abound in the limestone mountains of the Carmel range. Traversable by just a few routes, the Carmel’s topography dictated the 009locations of such ancient cities as Megiddo and Yoqne’am, which were built to guard vital passages. But the heights that posed problems to traders and invaders alike proved to be a blessing to plant life, for the Carmel’s comparatively cool temperatures and plentiful rainfall supports an abundant growth of trees and flowers. In another installment of our Bible Lands department, Oded Borowski explores “The Carmel—Formidable Barrier and Wedge into the Sea.”
The chairman of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Languages and Literatures at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, Borowski has contributed two previous Bible Lands articles to BR: “The Negev—The Southern Stage for Biblical History,” BR 05:03 and “The Sharon—Symbol of God’s Abundance,” BR 04:02. He also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of BR’s sister magazine Biblical Archaeology Review.
A new generation of Dead Sea Scroll scholars may change our understanding of the history of Judaism and Christianity. Deeply immersed himself in Scroll research, Lawrence H. Schiffman surveys “The Significance of the Scrolls.” Recently granted a peek at the long awaited, but still-unpublished, text known as MMT, Schiffman assesses this document and finds in it evidence that the origin of the Qumran sect is Sadducean, rather than Essene. Schiffman is professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies at New York University, where he also serves as director of graduate studies in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies. […]