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The World of Qumran from Within.

While some Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts(/fragments) still await publication, much has already been accomplished. This volume contains thirteen essays/articles, twelve of which were published in a variety of journals between 1951 and 1988, selected to illustrate what is known of the Qumran community from their own writings.

In normative Judaism of the time, the Hebrew Bible was considered a closed book. In contrast, the [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] (the community's designation for itself) saw itself as still within the biblical period, and hence the canon was not (yet) closed. In the opening (previously unpublished) article, "Between the Bible and the Mishna," Talmon first highlights key aspects of the documents that contrast with normative Judaism: conscious imitation and quotation of biblical style in contrast to the Mishna's distinctive style and infrequent biblical quotations; the sect's schema of Israelite history divided into four eras so as to include themselves within it; the appropriation of exile-and-return phraseology and imagery; the choice of [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] as a noun to describe the community ("The Qumran [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED: A Biblical Noun" [1953]).

Second, he notes significant and surprising omissions in the sect's writings such as: no explicit reference to Jeremiah's vision of a restitution after 70 years; instead, an application to the community of Ezekiel's prophecy of 390 years of punishment for Israel, and 40 years for Judah; the paucity of quotation from the post-exilic prophets; and the appropriation to the community of the status of "the first returners to the land." From this Talmon concludes: "In their totality, the Qumran finds mirror the Covenanters' Eigenverstandnis and show the [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] to have been a socioreligious phenomenon sui generis" (p. 52).

As evidenced by the title of the third article, "A Further Link Between the Judean Covenanters and the Essenes?" (1963), Talmon initially supported the identity of the [UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED] as Essenes, but now rejects the designation. He says, ". . . if these two entities of dissenters from mainstream Judaism are lumped together, the resulting amalgam should be called Qumran-[UNKNOWN TEXT OMITTED], rather than Essenes, since documentation on the former is incomparably more detailed and comprehensive than the latter" (p. 277).

The second major article, "Aspects of the Textual Transmission of the Bible in Light of Qumran Manuscripts" (1964), along with four related short articles, explores in detail from the rich field of pre-masoretic variants that illustrate stages in the history of the text. The third major article, "The Calendar of the Covenanters of the Judean Desert" (1958), and its companion, "Yom Hakippurim in the Habakkuk Scroll" (1951), detail fundamental calendrical differences between Qumran and Jerusalem, and the strife this engendered. Finally, in the longest article, an amalgam of two previous articles, "The Emergence of Institutionalized Prayer in Israel in Light of Qumran Literature" (1978, 1959-60), Talmon traces the development of institutionalized prayer as the community's center of worship to replace animal sacrifices.

The disclaimer in the preface that no attempt has been made to update the studies presumably refers to the text, since some footnotes, at least, have been updated beyond the original publication date. The decision to re-typeset to a uniform format is a great plus, and the work is in the main carefully done, with few typographical errors. In the volume for review, the companion pages 290, and 307 (in the midst of the sources index) are both blank.

To whom is this volume of interest? The obvious answer would seem to be young students who come fresh to the study of Qumran, and wish to trace the history of interpretation. Certainly this volume is able to fill that gap, but not without a major caveat. The publishers assume a level of scholarship above the broader interests of this potential audience. Since the articles were taken unedited from scholarly journals, the Hebrew is for the most part untranslated. Consequently, many students who would welcome such a handy collection of articles, but have little or no experience in post-biblical Hebrew, will simply give up on all but the most general articles. Assistance here, in the admittedly regrettable age of diminished language ability, would have increased the appeal significantly.
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Author:Taylor, Bernard A.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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