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Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea scrolls (review)
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Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Lawrence Schiffman, James C. VanderKam et al. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000. 1132 pp. $295.00.

This two-volume work, which contains 450 original articles in A to Z order (Volume 1: A–M and Volume 2: N–Z), is recommended to the readers of this journal without hesitation. All libraries that feature Jewish Studies/Judaica will want to have it. It provides an authoritative yet accessible source for one-stop shopping for reliable information about the scrolls, and is meant for both scholars and interested lay people. The information contained in the volumes is up-to-date and reflects the views of an international cross-section of leading scholars. While Lawrence Schiffman (New York University) and James C. VanderKam (University of Notre Dame) served as editors-in-chief, the editorial board of experts consisted of George J. Brooke (University of [End Page 179] Manchester); John J. Collins (University of Chicago); Florentino Garcia Martinez (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen); Eileen Schuller (McMaster University); Emanuel Tov (Hebrew University of Jerusalem); and Eugene Ulrich (University of Notre Dame). These scholars were assisted by a consultant, Ephraim Stern (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), and four advisers: Joseph A. Fitzmyer (Catholic University of America); the late Jonas C. Greenfield (Hebrew University of Jerusalem); Emile Puech (Ecole Biblique et Archéologique Française de Jerusalem); and Hartmut Stegemann (University of Göttingen). This team of scholars directed the work of more than 100 contributors.

The volumes have several notable features. For instance, while the term “Dead Sea Scrolls” might well seem to many persons to be synonymous with the Qumran scrolls, the entries actually address the broader understanding of all the collections of texts found along the Dead Sea; that is, those texts often referred to as Judean Desert texts. This larger body of texts includes, in addition to the Qumran scrolls, Samaritan papyri found at Wadi ed-Daliyeh, northeast of Jericho; the Bar Kokhba texts found at Murabba’at, south of Qumran and north of Masada; texts found at Masada; and documents discovered at Khirbet Mird.

Further, the editors and advisors adopted several conceptual categories which “allowed the editors to plan the work and to make the coverage as systematic, detailed, and efficient as possible” (p. xii). The adoption of this system of uniform categories no doubt helped the editors to maintain their collective focus, and it helps readers as well to stay oriented, even when skipping from entry to entry. The conceptual categories are: places and archaeological sites; material remains; written materials and texts; history; beliefs, institutions, and practices; personalities; and research (including publication; preservation; tools; methods; and key individuals and institutions).

The system of entries is also helpful. There are three kinds of entries: independent, composite, and blind. Independent entries, such as “Hebrew,” are likely terms or phrases that one would expect to find material about. Composite entries are headings that group together related topics, such as “Daliyeh, Wadi ed-,” which has two component articles, written by different scholars, on Archaeology and Written Material. Blind entries appear in their proper alphabetical position and direct readers to the independent or composite entries that deal with a given topic. This feature saves time hunting down articles when information is covered under an unexpected title.

Finally, since the aim of the encyclopedia is to reflect the latest scholarship on the various topics covered, the entry articles include bibliographies, which are often annotated. The notion that the lay audience has been kept prominently in mind by the editors is reflected by the fact that these bibliographies are “less complete for publications in languages other than English” (p. xiii). [End Page 180]

Those looking for understandable, authoritative treatments of the history of the Judean texts, their meaning for scholars, and their continuing relevance will find these comprehensive volumes to be most helpful.

David S. Williams
Department of Religion
University of Georgia
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