The Third Battle Of The Dead Sea Scrolls -- By: Zdzislaw J. Kapera

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:3 (Summer 1990)
Article: The Third Battle Of The Dead Sea Scrolls
Author: Zdzislaw J. Kapera


The Third Battle Of The Dead Sea Scrolls

Zdzislaw J. Kaperaa

Many ancient manuscripts were discovered around Khirbet (“the ruins of”) Qumran in the Judean Desert at the end of the 1940’s and the beginning of the 1950’s.1 So far scholars have fought two battles around them. The first battle was over the authenticity of the scrolls. This was settled by the mld-1950’s when the antiquity of the scrolls was proved with overwhelming evidence for dating them in the period from about 150 BC to AD 70. A working hypothesis that they were compiled in the Essene Monastery at Khirbet Qumran continued to be generally accepted until the 1980’s.2

The second battle was over attempts to “Christianize the Scrolls” or to “Essenize Christianity.” It started with a famous article in the New Yorker published by an eminent American journalist, Edmund Wilson, in May 1955.3 This battle was practically over by the beginning of the 1960’s, with most scholars rejecting the idea of a direct connection between the scrolls and early Christianity. Both battles were based mostly on published manuscripts of Qumran Cave I.4

After the long and frustrating expectation of the publication of several hundred scrolls from Qumran Cave 4, without results, it seems that scholars have now started a new, third battle. This time they are urging the publication of the remaining scrolls. If they are successful, the next decade should be marked by quick progress in publication.

A number of scholarly meetings in 1989,5 dozens of articles and inter-

views in newspapers and weeklies, are evidence of the beginning of the new battle. In this report I present some events of the last five months of 1989.

The Groningen Conference

In August 1989, a meeting of Qumran scholars was held in the Netherlands to end the celebration of the 375th anniversary of the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. The main subject of the conference was “The Texts of Qumran and the History of the Community.” Numerous important papers were connected with the presentation of new texts.6

The great news, announced by Professor E. Ulrich on August 21, was that the Biblical texts of Qumran Cave 4 which he received after the death of Father P. Skehan in 1980 are nearly ready for publicatlon....

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