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orion Shanks DSS book
_The Mystery and Meaning of The Dead Sea Scrolls_ by Hershel Shanks (NY:
Random House, 1998) is now out, and it was reviewed in NY Times April 1.
The review was largely rather favorable but also complained about
insufficient explanation of some scholarly and theological debates and how
some conclusions have changed over time.
I could add a long list of pros and cons. Though much of the
subject matter will be familiar to orionites, Shanks' rehearsal of
observations by scholars will interest many of us, I suppose, while each
will disagree with various sections. Here merely a few comments:
I utterly disagree with his repetition of a widespread falsehood.
Page 139: "Moreover, the sectarian scrolls themselves do not refer to their
group as Essenes." Page 90: "Neither the word 'Essene' nor any of its
variants appear in the scrolls [note 45]..." Note 45 , p. 211: "We don't
even know what the Hebrew word for "Essene" is. We have no Hebrew text with
that word in it. All of its appearances are in Greek texts." All five
sentences are quite false. The Hebrew root is 'asah, and it is in the
Qumran texts as a self-identification.
The above mistake by Shanks and many others, I suggest, has
contributed to one thing the NY Times review found lacking: sufficient
distinction between the relation of: Essenes; views which excessively
paralleled Qumran and Christianity; and efforts to "reclaim" Qumran for
Judaism, but sometimes by using anachronistic Rabbinic terminology for
opponents. In other words, failure to see "Essenes" in the Essene portion
of the Qumran texts has contributed to some influential though bogus
proposals. For instance: that the scrolls are "Sadducee"; that the scrolls
all came from Jerusalem; or that the scrolls are from an otherwise unknown
non-Essene Jewish group.
The discussion of "infra hos" in Pliny (page 126ff) is muddled and
unreliable, as anyone who has been reading orion can discern.
P. 216 n.11 refers to "the Internet," in other words, orion
(without citing it specifically). The subject is the number of hands
represented in the mss. It inaccurately reports the post by Martin Abegg on
that subject (as shown by comparing orion archives 6 Nov 1996).
The copper scroll in situ photo on p. 181, here, as often
elsewhere, should be rotated 90 degrees clockwise.
For whatever reason, many inkwell photo captions in many
publications are wrong. On p. 110, the caption reads: "A bronze inkwell
supposedly found at Qumran by bedouin around 1950 was sold by Kando to a
Norwegian collector." On p. 213-4, more correctly, the same inkwell is said
to have been once owned by John Allegro. The Norwegian collector did speak
to Kando about this inkwell, but did not purchase it from Kando.
These are just a few comments for starters. As one might guess,
much of the book is interesting and informative. There is still no book
which adequately treats the subject of Essenes.