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Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls?: The Search For The Secret Of Qumran [Paperback]

By Norman Golb (Author)
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Item description for Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls?: The Search For The Secret Of Qumran by Norman Golb...

From one of the leading authorities on the Dead Sea Scrolls comes a startling new theory on their origins, history, and meaning. Norman Golb's intriguing explanation of the Scroll's origins conveys fascinating new information on the evolution of Judaism and Christianity. "The best and most complete account we have to date".--The Washington Post.

Publishers Description
Since their discovery in the Qumran caves beginning in 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls have been the object of intense fascination and extreme controversy. Here Professor Norman Golb intensifies the debate over the scrolls' origins, arguing that they were not the work of a small, desert-dwelling fringe sect, as other scholars have claimed, but written by different groups of Jews and the smuggled out of Jerusalem's libraries before the Roman seige of A.D 70.

Golb also unravels the mystery behind the scholarly monopoly that controlled the scrolls for many years, and discusses his role as a key player in the successful struggle to make the scrolls widely available to both scholars and students. And he pleads passionately for an academic politics and a renewed commitment to the search for the truth in scroll scholarship.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls?: The Search For The Secret Of Qumran by Norman Golb has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 130
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 105

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Touchstone
Pages   480
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.2" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.2"
Weight:   1.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 20, 1996
Publisher   Touchstone
ISBN  0684806924  
ISBN13  9780684806921  

Availability  0 units.

More About Norman Golb

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Norman Golb has achieved worldwide renown through his manuscript discoveries and historical writings. A prolific author and twice a Guggenheim Fellow, he is the first holder of the Rosenberger Chair in Jewish History and Civilization at the University of Chicago and a voting member of its celebrated Oriental Institute.

Norman Golb currently resides in the state of Illinois. Norman Golb has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Chicago.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > Dead Sea Scrolls
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > History

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Reviews - What do customers think about Who Wrote The Dead Sea Scrolls?: The Search For The Secret Of Qumran?

where's the evidence?  Jan 30, 2007
On page 10 Golb wrote, "Since no coins of the reign of Herod the Great (40-4 BC) were found in the excavation..." But De Vaux did find coins of Herod the Great, and reported this plainly, for instance on pages 22-23 of Archaeology and the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Later digs found Herod coins, also.) This is one example of inaccurate presentation of the facts. The book is not reliable factually, nor in its interpretations. Let's take a more complicated example, the text known as 4Q448. Golb's long section on this starts on page 256. Ada Yardeni discovered what had been overlooked by previous readers: this fragment mentioned King Jonathan, otherwise known as Alexander Jannaeus. So, most would agree, it has potential to tell us something about history. Golb wrote belittling the skills of Yardeni and her publication colleagues. Golb claims to give the right reading of the beginning of the poetry in which the king's name appears. I think a scholar or 2 or 3 accepted his reading for a while years ago, but I can't think of any scholar today who uses Golb's reading. Furthermore, 4Q448 is increasingly seen, not as Golb thought, as a hymn of praise of King Jonathan, but a condemnation of him. Then, not long after, Golb found that he agreed with Yardeni on the reading of an ostracon found at Qumran. He changed his tune, and had high praise of Yardeni as a skilled paleographer (as she is). So his interpretation of 4Q448 is unreliable.
Golb claimed the sequence of Qumran discoveries misled historians--but that is merely a non-falsifiable claim. Golb claims Qumran was a fort, but the walls are not fortified. Aside from a small skirmish in c. 68 CE between Romans and (probably) zealots who came after the Essenes fled east, there's no Hellenistic/Roman battle evidence. In fact, in most periods of history, Qumran was uninhabited, because it is not strategically located. Golb downplayed or ignored sectarianism. But the initiation described in the scrolls involves giving all one owns to the yahad--a big step--and this is also described of Essenes in Josephus War Book 2. Sadducees, according to Josephus, persuaded "few," and were an aristocratic group, smallest of the three probably. Sadducees are not known for writing books, except perhaps for a "Book of Decrees," which is not found at Qumran. Sadducees were Torah-only conservatives; they did not believe in named angels nor resurrection--teachings present at Qumran, and matching Essene teachings. Just as there are no Sadducee texts among the circa 900 Qumran texts, similarly, there are no Pharisee texts there: rather, the Qumran texts apparently belittle Pharisee oral tradition. Qumran texts disapprove of the temple administration (on purity and calendar practice, for example). The pro-Maccabee book 1 Maccabees, though likely available then in Hebrew, is totally absent at Qumran. Neither, in all the Qumran calendar texts, is there a single mention of the pro-Hasmonean festival of Hanukkah. Hirschfeld proposed locating Pliny's Essenes at a site uphill of Ein Gedi; among the many archaeologists unpersuaded by Hirschfeld's site are Magen and Peleg, and Magness and Amit. The best reading of Pliny locates Essenes on the "north-west shore" of the Dead Sea, as C.D. Ginsburg wrote in 1870, and as did several others before the scrolls came to light in 1948. Golb's book is out of date in regard to scholarship on Pliny, who never set foot in Judaea and who used a source on Essenes from the time of Herod the Great (for details see the online paper, "Rereading Pliny on the Essenes: Some Bibliographic Notes").
Of course not all the scrolls were penned at Qumran--though Qumran now has more inkwells than any other published site in the area and era--but who ever claimed that they were? Sure, some were brought from outside, likely including Jerusalem, but not all Jerusalem only, nor all at once. Golb's book never provides real evidence that the scrolls came at once from Jerusalem. It appears to be just a story of what he imagined or wished had happened. The book offers more about his sense of grievance than about history backed with evidence. Where's the evidence for his proposal? If the texts were deposited from Jerusalem libraries, why are there not marks of ownership for retrieval?
As is increasingly being realized, the Hebrew origin of the name Essenes is in the scrolls as a self-designation. That is, the many Greek spellings (e.g. Ossaioi) of what in English we call "Essenes" come from Hebrew, osey hatorah, observers of torah. Of course, the Pharisees and Sadducees would not call them that. But scholars through the centuries knew that this was the Hebrew origin; for example. Ph. Melanchthon, writing in 1532: Chronica...Wittenberg, 1532 f68v. "Essei / das ist / Operarii / vom wort Assa / das ist wircken." Here's a 1550 English version: The Thre Bokes of Cronicles...London. "The thirde were Essey, the whiche when they perceived that both the Phariseyes and Sadduceyes folowed their appetites under the coloure of honest titles, nether did ought in a maner that were worthy their profession: therfore semed it them good, to declare the straitnesse and severitie of lyfe with the dede, and would be called Essey, that is workers or doers, for Assa, whence the name Essey commeth, sygnifieth to worke..." The real opportunity for historians is to learn more about Qumran and Essenes, subjects which ineluctably overlap. Though there once was a problem getting access to the scroll texts, they are now all available. We have ancient text that (some of it as interpreted pre-1948) placed Essenes in the Qumran/Feshkha area; we have no ancient text that tells Golb's story that all the scrolls came from Jerusalem--(implausibly) during the siege--to Qumran, but texts that contradict that story (scrolls salvaged by Josephus in Jerusalem, others up in flames; hiding in Jerusalem, not outside; and items looted to Rome--remember the Arch of Titus, which shows items taken from the Temple to Rome). The theories excluding Essenes contradict one another; none is a viable alternative. Who Wrote these scrolls? Some of these scrolls, Essenes. For additional information on the relevant history, see the online paper, "Jannaeus, His Brother Absalom, and Judah the Essene."
A nice challenge to the traditional view  Jan 5, 2007
The book argues cogently that a great injustice has been committed. The traditional view has exercised an undue monopoly over the interpretation of the scrolls. The traditional view endorsed by some Christian and Jewish scholars is that
1) The settlement of Khirbet Qumran was inhabited by the sect of the Essenes;
2) Before the current era;
3) The settlement was a peaceful desert retreat and not a fortress;
4) The scrolls found there were written on the premises, by scribes;
5) One of the texts, the so called Copper Scroll, is a spurious document.
Golb began to doubt the official version of the story and started questioning the assumptions and what he calls the "dogmatic," a priori, unsubstantiated beliefs of traditional Qumranologists. In his book he documents the "conspiracy of silence", the condescendence and wrongs he had to put up with. Golb supports the so-called "Jerusalem origin" of the scrolls, arguing that the scrolls formed part of the library of Jerusalem. Either before or during the Roman siege of the year 70 c.e., scribes took those scrolls at Qumran, which was inhabited by zealots or military personnel fighting the Romans. Others scholars' views Golb introduces his readers to are those of:

Lawrence Schiffmann: he argued that the scrolls are of pre-Christian origins. The caves were inhabited by a sect (not Essenes, but dissatisfied Sadducees). The scrolls wer brought from the outside.

Robert Eisenman: argued that the inhabitants of Qumran were a Judeo-Christian sect.

James VanderKam: representative of the consensus. Teaches at Notre Dame.
Golb Tells Us More!  May 16, 2006
Professor Norman Golb presents a fascinating and persuasive study of the Dead Sea Scrolls with his book "Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scroll?" (1996). His is a compelling and well-resourced (with 25 pages of end notes and 9 pages of selected bibliography) argument proposing that Qumran was never a home for the ancient Essenes. He additionally suggests that those who think Qumran was a monastery for a single sect are mistaken. (Golb says the first generation of modern "Qumranologists" misunderstand Qumran's archaeological discoveries.)

Golb believes Qumran (in south central Israel, near the mouth of the Jordan River) was one of the country's many ancient fort locations. Built by the warrior king Alexander Jannaeus (about 90 BC) this fortification (only about 15 miles from Jerusalem) was strategically located to protect the Holy City's eastern approach. Golb recognizes the Qumran "scriptorium" as the probable military garrison's meeting hall, its 1200 grave cemetery as the likely causalities from the AD 70 Battle of Qumran (when the Romans destroyed its location), that the unearthed tower and ramp foundations are military structures, and that Fort Qumran was built halfway between Jerusalem and Fort Macherus (a typical ancient military tactic).

Golb's original analysis of Qumran doesn't stop with reviewing its military position. He also does not believe that the Qumran scrolls are "documents" (They have no author's name, dates of composition, nor locations for their compositions. Omitting all three of these characteristics is somewhat unusual in antiquity.) and prefers to term them simply "manuscripts". Believing that all the scrolls came to the wilderness for safe hiding from the Romans, he says that none of them were penned in Qumran. This supports his Fort Qumran theory (the scrolls were take to the area of a distant fort for their protection). Golb thinks the scrolls arrived from Jerusalem, which defines the scholarly "Jerusalem Origins Hypothesis" (pages 148-40).

Of particular interest is Golb's autobiographical narrative about arguing with other Dead Sea Scroll experts. Attempting to present the truth about Qumran, while adjusting its emerging history, he speaks to his disputes with the "Qumranologists". Through this disputive process Golb discovers and introduces perhaps a fourth ancient religio-politcal party- the "Yahad" (page 150)- autonomous from the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. The divisive quarrel with other Scrolls experts ends in a 1993 court decision with an Israeli judge ruling in favor of scholarly suppression of the Dead Sea Scrolls! Perhaps the whole truth about Qumran will never be known or told.

The book hosts a multitude of maps, black and white photos, drawings and data tables through its 461 paperback pages. This book is a gripping narrative. It convinces that Qumran is not all that we have been told. This book tells us more!

It is recommended to all history students, Bible studiers, teachers of antiquity, and Dead Sea Scroll buffs. It is an excellent gift candidate. Get your copy soon!

A good alternative theory to the scrolls' origins  Jul 17, 2004
The party line on the Dead Sea Scrolls (that is, the most commonly accepted explanation) is that most of the scrolls were produced by a sect of Essene separatists who lived in the recently excavated settlements at Qumran, near the Dead Sea. This explanation has many merits, including independent reference to the Essenes in this area by Josephus and Philo, an historian and a philosopher contemporary with the sect, and by Pliny. Qumran, according to this theory, was a monastic settlement, and one of the primary activities of the residents was the production of scrolls in a scriptorium. The scrolls provide a record of the beliefs and some of the practices of this sect.

However, not all subscribe to this point of view. Some, starting with various interpretations of the scrolls like to see proto-Christians and radical scenarios. Unfortunately, some have done this simply because it grabs the headlines. However, there are other dissenters, perhaps more likened to a loyal opposition, who have both the credentials and the credulity to make alternative cases of interpretation. Norman Golb is one such scholar, whose ideas of an alternative theory of the Qumran settlement and the origins of the scrolls is significant enough to merit mention in many of the latest Dead Sea Scrolls general surveys as a minority view that still has plausibility in some respects.

Golb, in his introduction, talks about his hopes and frustrations with trying to work with the established Scroll hierarchy. Suffering from the same sorts of issues that made access and interpretation such highly politicised topics, Golb felt he was not only an outsider, but sometimes a bit of an outcast, among the Scroll scholarly community.

Golb's main thesis here, presented after giving an overview of the history of the scrolls and the archaeological digs at Qumran (complete with maps, drawings and photographs), is that this is not a monastic community, and not really a scriptorium. Drawing information from an early article by Rengstorf, who thought that the Qumran settlement was anything but an Essene community, he developed the idea of Khirbet Qumran as a fortress, developed in part because of inconsistencies between the archaeological finds and the supposed activities of Essenes that would have required different architecture and different arrangements. This Hasmonean fortress is located in an admittedly strategic location, particularly for the various events and travel routes of the area during Hasmonean times.

Furthermore, Golb felt that the scrolls had far too many variations and contradictions to all be the product of one particular sect, or one particular community of people. Golb contends that the scrolls were actually the accumulated writings of many groups and sects from across ancient Judea, and were most likely the library of the Temple - these were then hidden in the caves in the vicinity of the known fortress at Khirbet Qumran, outside of Jerusalem, but not too far away, to protect the writings in the face of an imminent Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.

Golb has data to support his theories. One primary archaeological find is pottery - however, pottery of the sort found at Qumran has been found in other locations in the Judean wilderness, too. Second, there were no manuscript scraps or fragments found at Qumran, an unlikely scenario for a scriptorium, in Golb's assessment. Pliny's location of the sect is rather vague (above Ein Gedi), and might not point to Khirbet Qumran. No coin finds locate the scroll writers with the Qumrani remains. Romans had captured the site about the time of the fall of Jerusalem, perhaps even before. The Essenes were known to espouse celibacy (one of the reasons for their low numbers, and, rather like the Shakers in America, their recruitment didn't allow them to replenish their numbers, particularly in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem, when Judaism as a whole was forced into a reorganisation along what would become normative Rabbinic Judaic lines).

Golb traces the history of the research, translation and controversy surrounding the scrolls during the presentation of his alternative theory. The reader gets an overview of the discoveries from 1947/48 to more recent discoveries, the archaeological progress at the Qumran site, and the reconstruction and translation efforts over time. This is a story of political intrigue, involving international politics, academic politics, and controversies that fueled rumour mills and gossips for decades. Golb has a perspective that is more insider than most; and he discusses the personalities involved in a good amount of detail. He also includes the perspective of being a scholar on the outside of accepted dogma - how the idea of freedom of expression, open research and free exchange of views often gets squelched in the name of the integrity of a discipline; how careers become invested in a particular point of view, such that any opposing viewpoints can run the risk of gettiing their supporters exiled from the mainstream of the community. Rather like church and politics!

Golb includes a useful glossary of terms at the conclusion of the book, worthwhile regardless of the theory of origins of the scrolls one subscribes to, and a selected bibliography, topically arranged.

Golb's book is an interesting overview of the scrolls from a unique perspective, plausible and intriguing, a good alternative book to read from the more mainstream scroll texts.

Stake in the Heart  Dec 6, 2003
This 1995 book should have been the stake in the heart of the theory of a so-called 'Qumran community of Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls'; revealing, as it does, the promoters of that bankrupt theory to be mostly scholarly charlatans -- masquerading behind academic credentials -- of the most religiously bigoted variety. (Roman Catholic? Jewish? Protestant? It makes no difference. The Scrolls' origins, translations, and interpretations seem to be the sole study in which religious bigots of all Judeo-Christian persuasions can strike an ecumenical accord.) As a result of strident proselytizing and unscholarly -- sometimes immoral and illegal -- activities, the 'consensus view' of the 'Qumran-Essene scribes' is unfortunately alive and thriving today in many scholarly circles; which means, perforce, that it is a 'given' in lay circles. Sad. Maybe another half century will see its final demise.

I have a single beef with this terrific book, and that is with the somewhat gratuitous pondering, toward the end of the book, about the effects of the Dead Sea Scrolls on the study of early Christianity. In the process of tackling this huge subject in merely a few paragraphs, Golb refuses to distinguish between early Judeo-Christianity and the full-blown, Hellenic/Roman Christianity of Paul and Constantine. In refusing to do so, Golb -- a bit perversely, it seems -- practices very well that same scholarly obtuseness and obfuscation that he has just spent hundreds of pages castigating. He should have foregone the publication of these half-formed musings.

Otherwise, I think that everyone who is interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls should read this book; and then that same everyone should not delay in taking advantage of the Internet to send scolding letters to the scoundrels who managed to suppress the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls for exactly half a century after the discovery of the first seven scrolls. You might want to mention in your letters that these rogues are still, after the publication of the Scrolls, almost managing to suppress any and all discussion of their flawed translations and interpretations of the Qumran fragments. I think that these ladies and gentlemen -- the only honorifics that I will accord them -- should know that we do not like to be told lies.


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