The Dead Sea Scrolls have long been a mystery to many, not because there hasnít been anything written about them, but because there has never been a unified effort to portray not only what these ancient scrolls contain, but what meaning they have for todayís major religions.
Authors Vanderkam and Flint have compiled an unprecedented amount of information in their work The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and have done so with a straightforward and in-depth study of these parchments. To start, the authors explain when and how these writings were found, and in very detailed reporting explain and describe their condition and how they were initially dated. The archaeology of the Qumran site, where the majority of the scrolls were found, is extensively researched, as are the various methods used today that have been crucial to the study of these writings. Advancements in technology and forensic science have enabled scholars to discover new facts about these papers that were unheard of a decade ago.
Following the history of the discovery and scientific study of these writings is a very detailed commentary comparing the writings of the scrolls to the Hebrew Bible, Old Testament writings prior to the discovery of the scrolls, and textual study of both the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the text used in the scrolls. While many of the scrolls are biblical in nature, many of the writings found among the parchments arenít, and these are also thoroughly discussed. Also delved into in great detail is who wrote the scrolls in the first place. Were they written by a group of Essenes believed to have lived in the area at the time, or did Sadducees or Pharisees of the Second Temple society write them? Others claim that no one group is responsible for the scrolls, and each topic is excellently covered.
Beyond that, what the scrolls say about Jesus and His time and the question of the scrolls being in accordance with the New Testament writings of the Apostles are examined. Highly annotated, and extensively researched, this is by far one of the best sources of information and data gathered on the Dead Sea Scrolls to date. Separate and lengthy appendices also trace and illuminate sayings culled from the scrolls, quotations in the non-biblical scrolls and translations of the scrolls themselves.
Ample photographs and diagrams enhance the text, and while this wealth of knowledge is by no means an easy read, it is extremely informative. The narrative is given in a straightforward though technological manner, the text broken into easily digestible portions that make reading easier. Each chapter is listed with its own bibliography and there are also plentiful notes added which help to clarify comments made throughout.
Overall, this collective work is one that is not to be missed by any historical scholar or armchair archaeologist.