Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 43:2 (Jun 2000)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Reconstructing Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Method Applied to the Reconstruction of 4QSama. By Edward D. Herbert. Leiden: Brill, 1997, xv + 293 pp., $191.50.

This is a revised version of Herbert’s Cambridge doctoral thesis written under the supervision of Graham Davies. Herbert examined thoroughly the fragments of 4QSama, one of the most significant Biblical scrolls. According to Herbert, “a twelfth of Samuel is now extant and identified, spanning just over a third of the verses and 45 of the 54 chapters” (p. 1).

After a short introduction, the book deals with “A New Method for Reconstructing the Text of Biblical Scrolls,” “Establishing Elements of the Method,” “Laying the Foundations for the Reconstruction of 4QSama,” and the “Reconstruction and Analysis of 2 Samuel.” After the conclusion, useful appendixes follow: “New Fragment Identifications,” “4QSama Fragment Index,” “Orthography,” “Deviations,” and “Fragment Juxtapositions.” The book ends with a select bibliography and indexes of authors, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Scripture passages. It uses the official photographs on pp. 249-274. This makes it very useful, though expensive.

Since no clear method had been developed for reconstructing the text of scrolls, “scholars had rather depended largely upon common sense and general scholarly judgment” (p. 2). Herbert proposes measuring the average column width and then average letter widths for 4QSama (Table 40). An interesting result emerges from this analysis: s̆in is on average the widest letter at 3.47 mm, followed by qop, e, and samek, while the final nun is the narrowest at 0.99 mm, followed by zayin, waw and nun. It is noteworthy that waw is not the narrowest and yod is only the fifth narrowest. Herbert measured every letter in the scroll to come to his conclusions.

The usefulness of this study is clear when one examines the most recent article, by F. M. Cross and D. W. Parry, “A Preliminary Edition of a Fragment of 4QSamb (4Q52),” BASOR 306 (1997) 63-74, which still follows the old method, though it refers to Herbert’s dissertation (1995) as one of the “alternate modes of calculating line and lacunas lengths.”

For example, Cross and Parry posit a “graphic similarity” (p. 67) between השׁלחן (4QSamb) and הַלָּחֶם “the meal” in 1 Sam 20:27 since they think that “mem and nun

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