Dispatches | October 30, 2006

Evelyn’s Oct. 22 posting on false messiahs, Jewish faith and culture reminded me that we have had past forays into Biblical literature. The most notable example is the publication of the Book of Jubilees translated from Ethiopic texts and fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The translation by James VanderKam appeared in Volume 15 (1992), number 1, as a “Found Text” feature — a series that typically includes renowned authors’ unpublished works.

What was so incredible about our publishing this work was that until the early ’90s, much of the Dead Sea Scrolls had not been released for public viewing or, for that matter, widespread scholarly examination — more than forty years after the discovery of the first scrolls by a Bedouin shepherd in the Judean desert east of Palestine. The scrolls date from about 250 B.C. to 68 A.D. and include manuscripts or fragments of every book of the Jewish Bible (or Old Testament) except Esther, as well as non-biblical texts.

The publication of the Book of Jubilees was just one step in the process of the Dead Sea Scrolls release to the public. Today they are available to everyone. And in spite of grumblings and “conspiracy theory” speculations, there were no texts that would rock the Judeo-Christian traditions. If anything, according to George Nickelsburg, professor emeritus of religion at the University of Iowa, quoted in the Sep. 20 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “The scrolls attest to ‘the general reliability of the Hebrew text on which most modern translations have been made….'”

A traveling exhibit  of the Dead Sea Scrolls includes stops in Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego, Phoenix, and Raleigh.