Friday, April 16, 2010

Review of Vermes, The Story of the Scrolls

THE STORY OF THE SCROLLS, by Geza Vermes, is reviewed in the Calcutta Telegraph. Excerpt:
Geza Vermes is one of the world’s acknowledged experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls. But he was only 23 when they were first discovered. He gives a cogent and objective account of how his life has come to be inextricably linked with the scrolls. He remarks at the end, lightheartedly, that he was once introduced as the man who has written the Dead Sea Scrolls in English. Most people who are aware of Vermes’s work will agree that such a description of him is entirely justified even though it does not encompass all aspects of his phenomenal scholarship and erudition.

This book is addressed to the intelligent layman who is interested in the scrolls and in the history that emerges from them. Vermes does two things in this book. First, he tells the story of their discovery, decipherment, collation, editing and annotation. This was not a smooth operation and it took inordinately long. There were too many groups of scholars involved. As a result, there were bickerings, vested interests, clash of egos, blunders and so on — all leading to the stalling of the project. This part will be of interest to those who are interested in the academic background of the project.

The other dimension of the book concerns the significance of the scrolls: how and to what extent have they extended and altered the understanding of the period. He precedes this by providing a sketch of the state of knowledge of biblical studies before the discovery of the scrolls.
Another review is noted here.