On February 5, my wife gave birth to our firstborn, a boy named Beau. Tonight, as he lay in his bassinet wrapped in swaddling clothes, I thought I would try my hand at a little father-son reading time. Earlier today a generous co-worker gave me a copy of John J. Collins' new book The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography. I can't imagine a Dr. Seuss book being any easier to read aloud. We'll have to wait and see if the rest of the book is written with such silky smooth prose. A few examples:
The "biography" of these Scrolls is somewhat like that of Rip van Winkle. While other texts from antiquity influenced the Renaissance or the Reformation, the Scrolls just slept. What we have witnessed in the last sixty-five years or so is not so much a biography as a post-resurrection after-life, separated from the original environment of the Scrolls by an interval of two millenia. (vii)
The Scrolls are fodder for the popular demand for "mysteries"--exotic, dimly understood lore that is paraded to stimulate curiosity in tabloid newspapers and television shows such as "Mysteries of the Bible." (ix)
The scholarly community is generally collegial and mutually supportive, but the Scrolls have brought to light some glaring exceptions that remind us that this community is no more free of original sin than any other segment of the human race. (xiii-xiv)
The purpose of Collins' book is a little different than the standard introduction.
Our purpose is to ask what difference the Scrolls have made to the study of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, and to probe what has been at stake in the debates that have often been so acrimonious.
Thanks for the book, Ivan. And, Beau, thanks for listening so well.