The scrolls from the Dead Sea

by Edmund Wilson

Hardcover, 1955

Status

Available

Call number

SC WIL

Collection

Publication

Allen, 1955.

User reviews

LibraryThing member nbmars
Wilson focuses on the discovery and processing of the scrolls found in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea. The content of the scrolls is given more cursory coverage, but the general thrust is conveyed. They were attributed to the Essene sect, whose presence in the region spanned from around the last third of 200 B.C. until at least 68 A.D. The theology evinced by the scrolls is similar to that of late apocryphal documents and also Persian theology, which, according to Wilson, "for a time gave Christianity some fairly severe competition." The principal elements of thought were: (1) the Two Ways (Darkness and Light); (2) Last Judgment at the end of time; (3) use of baptism; and (4) sacred repast in which bread and wine attain ritual significance. The scrolls also describe a "Teacher of Righteousness" who preaches sentiments later duplicated in the Gospels and who is persecuted and sentenced to die by an evil ruler.

Wilson notes that reaction to the translation of the scrolls was not favorable: Jews didn't like the idea that a powerful sect had "grown up inside Judaism but had nothing to do with Judaism." Christians were reluctant to recognize that the characteristic doctrines of Christianity as well as the outlines of [a Savior's] personal history were developed within a dissident branch of Judaism well before Jesus was even born.

Wilson's book was published in 1959. It will be interesting, when I go to the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit later this month, to see how the response to the revelation of the scrolls has evolved over time.

ADDENDUM: Postscript after visiting the exhibit in San Diego:

What a surprise! There were some terrific photographs of Israel, and in particular the Dead Sea region. There were the scroll segments, there were the translations, and there were some pots and shards. What did they mean? Where was the controversy? If one hadn't previously absorbed the message that museums collaborate in the creation (or re-creation) of history and memory, the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit brings it on home. A feast for postmodernist deconstructionists.

(JAF)
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Call number

SC WIL

Barcode

2747
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