"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 5, Number 5, May 2002
“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know. For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst. I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply. I will show partiality to no one. Nor will I flatter any man.” Job 32:17-21
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request. Some may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly. Articles on the King James Bible controversy and recent issues may be accessed at www.KJVOnly.org
All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only. Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand. Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]
ODD ROAD SIGNS FROM MARYLAND AND PENNSYLVANIA,
“Scenic Overlook ½ Mile. Closes at Dusk”
“Free Ham with Car Purchase”
”Pig’s Ear Road”
B. H. Carroll Exposes the Fraudulent Evasion
“No Creed but the Bible”
"All the modern hue and cry against dogma [i.e., settled beliefs] is really against morals. The more we reduce the number of the creed articles, the more we undermine practical religion. . . . A Christian's creed should enlarge, and not diminish, up to the last utterance of revelation in order that each article might be transmitted into experience.
"A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness.
"The modern cry: 'Less creed and more liberty,' is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy --it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian world would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but nonetheless deadly."
An Interpretation of the English Bible, volume 15, “Colossians, Ephesians, and Hebrews,” p. 140.
[The truth is, honest and honorable men are not afraid to state with utter plainness what they do and do not believe about Bible doctrine. It is only those with something to hide (something heretical or corrupt)--and a salary to protect--who prefer to traffic in vague theological generalities.
THE STRANGE FASCINATION OF EVIL MEN WITH MEN OF PRINCIPLE
I have long been convinced that one of the great proofs of the Divine origin of Scripture is the dead-on accuracy of its portrayal of human nature in all of its corruption and depravity. There is no naive wishful thinking about the innate goodness of man or of his perfectibility (by earthly means), but rather a plain recognition of his vast capacity for unspeakable evil.
One common human characteristic which the Bible describes through several examples is the strange fascination of evil men with men of principle. Among the examples from Scripture are Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate, and Felix.
Herod Antipas was incensed when John the Baptist boldly denounced this petty king’s adulterous relationship with his brother’s wife (Mark 6:14-29, and parallels). The account of John’s imprisonment in Mark’s Gospel tells us that Herod, to appease his wife Herodias, arrested and imprisoned John yet actually continued to fear him, even after he was in his custody and under his absolute control. Herod’s fear arose because he knew that John was a righteous and holy man. Remarkably, Herod repeatedly went to converse with John in prison, gladly listening to him speak, even though these conversations left him perplexed (imagine a monarch frequenting a prison so that he could listen to the prisoner who had boldly denounced the monarch’s sins and crimes!).
The day came when Herod in a drunken fit yielded to his lusts, made a hasty promise, and for the sake of saving face added to his crimes the murder of John.
Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor more concerned with political advancement that with justice, held an extended conversation with Jesus (as John’s Gospel records, John 18:28-19:11). Under almost any other circumstances, Pilate would not have spoken a single word to a condemned man in his custody, yet he seems strangely compelled to speak at length with this most unusual of prisoners, Jesus of Nazareth. I have long said that it was Pilate who was in fact on trial before Jesus, and not the other way around. In handing Jesus over to the howling mob, Pilate sacrificed his own soul on the altar of expediency.
After Paul’s arrest in the temple and hurried removal to Caesarea by the Roman authorities (see Acts 21:33-23:35), he is brought before the Roman governor of Judea, Felix, a man whose governorship was marked by brutality and cruel tyranny over the people (Acts 24:1-23). Accusations were brought against Paul before the governor by an attorney, one Tertullus, who had been hired by the Sanhedrin. After this preliminary hearing, Paul is placed in protective custody, followed by a second appearance before the governor, this time in the company of his wife Drusilla, some days later (24:24-25). Paul’s words shook the governor to the depths of his soul, yet he resisted the conviction impressed on his heart by the Holy Spirit, and cut short this contact. Even so, the governor subsequently summoned Paul for conversation repeatedly, inexplicably drawn to his words. He was also hoping that one of Paul’s many friends might grease the governor’s palm with some “bakshish” to obtain Paul’s release. But it cannot be simply that Felix again and again tried to work Paul for a bribe. Rather, the governor was fascinated by something in this Jewish prisoner, something rare, something remarkable.
In each case--Herod and John, Pilate and Jesus, Felix and Paul--the government official was drawn to his prisoner, and I suspect that it was out of envy. No, not envy for the prisoner’s wealth or power, for none of these could boast of such, but for his character. In each case, the prisoner was a man of sterling character, a man of unbendable principle, a man of the highest personal integrity. With all their money and authority, power and influence, here was something beyond the grasp of these men of substantial earthly power and control. These poor Jewish prisoners had something that the corrupt and debased rulers did not have and could not buy, no not at any price: personal integrity.
I have no doubt that the wicked secretly admire those who have genuine character and convictions, who live by principle, who are unbuyable men. Character is a thing that can only be developed over time, and can be squandered in a moment, never to be regained. Climbing the ladder of political power is almost wholly incompatible with gaining or maintaining real personal integrity. Not one of these rulers seems to have had the smallest particle of integrity left in his soul, and when they came face to face with men who had what they did not, they could not help but be drawn to such men, to learn the secret to their integrity. Here was something extraordinary and unattainably outside their own personal nature. They had a deep wish to be like these poor but truly honorable men, but must have considered it impossible--or to be obtained at too high a price, having already sold their souls to work wickedness.
Of course, being a man of integrity causes those around you without such to see the glaring flaws in their own character. No one likes to be negatively compared with others, and in not a few cases, anger, even rage is directed against the man of honor. His simple presence is silent condemnation of the moral corruption in the heart and life of those he is in contact with.
Character can only come from God, and from a long and close relationship to God, through faith and obedience. It is not the creature of a few days or weeks, but of many months and long years. It is developed by testings and trials, and comes at a high personal price.
Integrity and character are priceless treasures, and even those who have none are irresistibly drawn to those who do possess them. A man of character, though obscure and poor, will stand before governors and kings. Let us strive to become and remain men of such character.
The Latin Vulgate Translation in Historical Perspective,
Quotes on the History And Value of the Latin Vulgate
“The Vulgate is regarded by Papists and Protestants in very different points of view: by the former it has been extolled beyond measure, while by most of the latter it has been depreciated as much below its intrinsic merit. Our learned countryman, John Bois (canon of Ely [and one of the leading translators of the KJV--editor]), was the first who pointed out the real value of this version, in his Collatio Veteris Interpretis cum Beza aliisque recentioribus (8vo--1655). Bois was followed by Father Simon, in his Histoire Critique du Texte et des Versions du Nouveau Testament, who has proved that the more antient the Greek manuscripts and other versions are, the more they agree with the Vulgate; and in consequence of the arguments adduced by Simon, the Vulgate has been more justly appreciated by biblical critics of later times.
Although the Latin Vulgate is neither inspired nor infallible, as Morinus, Suarez, and other advocates of the Romish church have attempted to maintain, yet it is allowed to be in general a faithful translation, and sometimes exhibits the sense of Scripture with greater accuracy than the more modern versions; . . . . The Latin Vulgate, therefore, is by no means to be neglected by the biblical critic . . . . Even in the present state, notwithstanding the variations between the Sixtine and Clementine editions, and that several passages are mistranslated, in order to support the peculiar dogmas of the church of Rome, the Latin Vulgate preserves many true readings, where the modern Hebrew copies are corrupted.”
Thomas Hartwell Horne, An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1970 reprint), vol. II, part I, pp. 239-240.
“. . . the Vulgate should have a very deep interest for all the Western churches. For many centuries it was the only Bible generally used; and directly or indirectly, it is the real parent of all the vernacular versions of Western Europe . . . . In the Reformation the Vulgate was rather the guide than the source of the popular versions. . . It is enough to remember that the first translators of our [English] Bible had been familiarized with the Vulgate from their youth, and could not have cast off the influence of early association. But the claims of the Vulgate to the attention of scholars rest on wider grounds. It is not only the source of our current theological terminology, but it is, in one shape or other, the most important early witness to the text and interpretation of the whole Bible.”
”And when every allowance has been made for the rudeness of the original Latin, and the haste of Jerome’s revision, it can scarcely be denied that the Vulgate is not only the most venerable but also the most precious monument of Latin Christianity. For ten centuries it preserved in Western Europe a text of Holy Scripture far purer than that which was current in the Byzantine Church; and at the revival of Greek learning, guided the way towards a revision of the late Greek text, in which the best of the Biblical critics have followed the steps of Bentley, with ever-deepening conviction of the supreme importance of the coincidences of the earliest Greek and Latin authorities.”
“[I]t is evident that the study of the Vulgate, however much neglected, can never be neglected with impunity. It was the Version which alone they knew who handed down to the Reformers the rich stores of medieval wisdom; the Version with which the greatest of the Reformers were the most familiar, and from which they had drawn their earliest knowledge of Divine truth.”
B. F. Westcott, “Vulgate,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible edited by Horatio Hackett (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981 reprint), vol. IV, p. 3451, 3479, 3481-3482.
“Throughout the notes I have quoted the readings of the Latin Vulgate in the hope of directing more attention to the study of it. It seems to me that we have lost much in every way from our neglect of a version which has influenced the theology of the West more profoundly than we know.”
B. F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (London: John Murray, 1882), p. xcvi.
“His [i.e., Jerome’s] improved Latin version of the Bible, called the Vulgate, gave to Western Europe in the dark ages when Hebrew was unknown and Greek forgotten, nearly all its scanty knowledge of the Word of God, and is still the standard Bible of the Roman Church. It was of inestimable value also to the Reformers and Protestant translators of the Bible into the vernacular tongues, whereby it has ceased to be merely a manual for the clergy and become what it was intended to be, a book for the common people, for all sorts and conditions of men. Our English Bible, if we are to judge from the innumerable cases where the definite article [in the original Hebrew and Greek texts] is disregarded, seems to have been made from the Latin Vulgate rather than from the original Greek and Hebrew. Even for the Biblical scholarship of the present day Jerome retains an important place among the indirect witnesses for the oldest text of the Greek New Testament.”
Philip Schaff, Through Bible Lands (New York: American Tract Society, 1878), pp. 228-9.
“. . . despite a certain unevenness and even an occasional error in Jerome’s work as reviser, the general standard of his labors is high. The Vulgate represents the solid judgment of a competent and careful scholar, passed on textual materials as old (or in some cases older) than those available to textual critics today.”
Bruce M. Metzger, Early Versions of the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), pp. 354-5.
“In the New Testament, at all events, the Vulgate is often nearer to the sense of the sacred writers than are many of the later manuscripts of the Greek New Testament . . . . The Latin translation, being derived from manuscripts more ancient than any we now possess, is frequently a witness of the highest value in regard to the Greek text which was current in the earliest times, and . . . its testimony is in many cases confirmed by Greek manuscripts which have been discovered or examined since the sixteenth century.”
William F. Moulton, The History of the English Bible (London: Charles H. Kelly, 1911. 5th ed.), pp. 29, 184.
“With the exception of the Gothic and Slavonic, the Latin is the parent of all the [Bible] versions of modern Europe, and has had no small share in determining the combined dignity and simplicity of their style . . . . [W]hile the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and even languages, were lost to the West for over a thousand years, the Latin Scriptures and the literature based on them remained all through that time the common possession of every scholar in Europe.
“Again, the very rudeness and servile fidelity of the earlier Latin versions form a valuable witness to the text of the still earlier Greek and a powerful instrument for restoring the sacred text to its original purity.”
“On the whole the Vulgate Old Testament is a finer translation than even our own Authorized Version; where the two agree, the latter is, directly or indirectly, derived from the former; where they differ, the Vulgate is usually found on the side of later and fuller scholarship.”
“Latin, as is well known, has no Article, Definite or Indefinite; lux may = light, the light, or a light, according to the context. The want is especially felt in a translation from, or into, languages which possess one or both, and it is the cause of many defects and ambiguities in our own A.V., the English of which, as we have often pointed out, is greatly affected by the Vulgate. Strangely enough, the Douay Version, though made directly from the Vulgate, often reproduces the article more fully and faithfully.”
“It is impossible to exaggerate the debt which the whole Western Church owes to the Vulgate, the version which ‘lived and reigned a thousand years’; which, amid the common ignorance of Greek, and in the absence of the buried Greek original text, represented and preserved the sacred Scriptures.
To speak only of the debt which England owes; the earliest versions, such as those of Wyclif, Hereford, and Purvey, were entirely dependent on the Vulgate; it is still the Bible of all English Roman Catholics. At one time pulpit quotations were exclusively drawn from it; and still from Sunday to Sunday, from tens of thousands of pulpits, the magnalia Dei, the wonderful works of God, are set forth in words derived directly or indirectly from
W. E. Plater and H. J. White, A Grammar of the Vulgate (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926) pp. 4-5; 7; 76-77; 135-136).
[especially important items marked with *]
Berger, Samuel, Histoire de Latin Vulgate Pedants les Premiers Siecles du Moyen Age. New York: Burt Franklin, 1958. Reprint of 1893 Paris edition.
Bogaeret, Pierre-Maurice, “Versions, Ancient (Latin),” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Vol. VI, pp. 799-803.
Loewe, Raphael, “The Medieval History of the Latin Vulgate,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible, ed. by H. W. F. Lampe, vol. II, pp. 102-154; bibliography, pp. 514-518.
McClintock, John, and Strong, James, ed., “Vulgate”, in Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981 reprint of Harper and Bros. edition, 1867-1887; vol. X, pp. 824-839.
*Metzger, Bruce M., The Early Versions of the New Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Chapter VII, “The Latin Versions,” pp. 285-374.
Nestle, E., “Bible Versions, II. Latin Versions,” in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, ed. by Samuel M. Jackson. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1963 reprint. Vol. II, pp. 121-127.
Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint. Vol. III, pp. 972-976.
Scrivener, F. H. A., Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell & Co., 1883. 3rd ed. Pp. 338-365.
Stratton-Porter, Gene, "Vulgate," in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. by James Orr. Chicago: Howard-Severance Co., 1929. Vol. V, pp. 3058-3063.
*Westcott, B. F., “The Vulgate,” in William Smith, ed., Dictionary of the Bible, rev. and ed. by Horatio B. Hackett. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981 reprint. Vol. IV, pp. 3451-3482.
Texts and Editions
*Darlow, T. H, and Moule, H. F., Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. London: British and Foreign Bible Society, 1903-1911. Vol. II, Part II, pp. 903-1003.
Harden, J. M., Dictionary of the Vulgate New Testament. London: S. P. C. K., 1921. xvi+126 pp.
Lowe, J. E., Church Latin for Beginners. London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1933. Fourth edition.
Nunn, H. P. V., An Introduction to Ecclesiastical Latin. Eton: Alden & Blackwell Ltd., 1952. Third edition reprint.
*Plater, W. E., and White, H. J., A Grammar of the Vulgate. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926.
Bible Dissectors--Some Observations by Vance Havner
“But sometimes I do wish these dividers of the Word, who take it apart better than they ever get it back together, would agree a little better. Just when I am stretched out and resting on some good verse, some expositor shows up like a policeman to order me off private property and tell me that this verse is reserved for the Jew and that for the Kingdom Age. I have heard of a man without a country and I had almost decided once that these Word-Dividers were going to leave me a preacher without a Bible, and I began to wonder, ‘Is this the communion of the saints or the confusion of tongues?’ Finally, I took refuge in the text: ‘Let God be true, but every man a liar.’
The Best of Vance Havner, Baker Books, 1980, p. 62
“Old Testament Introduction”--Some Suggested Resources
The subject “Old Testament Introduction” (OTI) is commonly included in a standard seminary M.Div. program. I have myself both taken and taught just such a course in OTI. Because of a bit of inherent obscurity in exactly what is meant by “Old Testament Introduction,” the term needs some explanation or definition. The “Old Testament” part of the name is self-explanatory--it involves the OT part of the Bible; the “Introduction” part is what needs clarification.
Briefly stated, OTI is divided into two parts, namely, “lower,” and “higher” criticism. I’m not sure who came up with these names, or why one part is considered higher, or lower, than the other (“criticism” here simply indicates evaluation or analysis, not fault-finding or condemnation). These, then, are the subdivisions of OTI. It is immediately obvious that these two designations in turn demand further clarification.
Lower criticism deals with such matters as: the original language(s) of the OT (Hebrew and Aramaic); the canon of the OT (that is, the books accepted as properly included in the collection of inspired books, and the criteria and process by which books were included--or excluded--from the OT canon); and the exact form, that is, the exact wording, of each OT book as originally written. We do not have the original manuscript of any OT book, yet we have abundant resources for recreating the original wording of the now-lost original manuscripts: many thousands of hand-made copies of the OT in Hebrew, most dating to the latter Middle Ages, but some as early as the 3rd century B.C.; ancient translations of the OT into Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, and Arabic; and, multiplied thousands of quotations of the OT preserved in the writings of ancient authors Jewish, Christian, and pagan. The process by which these resources are compared, sorted, classified, analyzed, and utilized to establish the precise original wording of the OT is called textual criticism and is an important part of lower criticism.
Higher Criticism addresses such issues as the date, authorship, theme, literary type, sources, etc., of individual OT books or parts of books. For example, higher criticism would study the authorship and date of writing of (to mention but one of the books of the OT) I and II Chronicles and what written sources were used by the author(s); or OTI would investigate the process by which the various Psalms, or sections of Proverbs, where accumulated or assembled in their present form. For example, within the book itself, Psalms shows that almost 1,000 years passed from its earliest (90th) to its latest (121st) psalm. Analyzing the various types of OT poetry would also come under study as part of higher criticism, along with many other related subjects. (Hebrew exegesis and Bible exposition would not fall directly under the heading of OTI).
Both lower and higher criticism are legitimate academic disciplines in the study of the OT. However, unbelieving critics have perverted their use by denying wholesale the self-testimony of the OT books in regard to both lower and higher criticism. There is an abundance of information within the OT of the inspiration, canonization, date, and authorship of its various books. Destructive higher criticism rejects the OT’s own self-testimony, chiefly because of presuppositions of anti-supernaturalism, and religious Darwinism--a prima facie rejection of even the possibility of Divine self-revelation, of miracles, or of real predictive prophecy. Of course, such wholly naturalistic assumptions are immediately hostile to the contents of the very document they propose to evaluate, and taint in advance the conclusions of the radical critic.
A very great deal has been written about OTI in general and about specific subjects within this discipline. For a course I recently taught on OTI, I compiled a bibliography of 12 pages, which was only a very basic preliminary listing. A book of a thousand pages, or even half a dozen such books, would be insufficient to make an exhaustive listing of just the titles of the various books, pamphlets, and articles relative to OTI which have been written.
Obviously, no adequate survey of the literature on OTI is possible here, but I would like to direct the reader to some of the better works on the subject (and every serious student of the Bible should have several standard works close to hand for consultation). Of general treatments, I will mention four--
Archer, Gleason L., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994. Third edition. 582 pp.
Harrison, Roland K., Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969. 1,325 pp.
Keil, Karl Friedrich, Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction to the Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament. 2 vols. Translated form the second German edition by George C. M. Douglas. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1870. Reprinted ca. 1990.
Young, Edward J., An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964. Revised edition.
All of these are conservative. Keil’s work (he is the famous OT commentator) is old and dated, but still has valuable information. Archer is very good on the radical higher criticism of the Pentateuch, Isaiah and Daniel, but not quite so good on the text, versions, and canon of the OT. Harrison is very detailed. Young, the briefest of the four, is probably the least detailed of those listed.
On more specific issues under OTI, the best work on the canon, and practically “the final word” is--
Beckwith, Roger. The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985. This is a superb work, far superior to anything else ever done on this topic.
On the text and textual criticism of the OT, two works will suffice for this brief recommendation--
Brotzman, Ellis R., Old Testament Textual Criticism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994.
Wuerthwein, Ernst, The Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Biblia Hebraica. Translated by Erroll F. Rhodes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979.
Brotzman is conservative and gives a good introductory treatment. Wuerthwein is heavily illustrated. Both prepare the student for the effective use of Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the standard scholarly edition of the Masoretic text.
I can point out flaws in each of these works (Archer, e.g., accepts the existence of pre-Adamites, and rejects a literal 6, 24-hour-day recent creation, besides having a surprising number of printer’s errors; Young denies Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes), but find them generally helpful. Naturally, all of these works will have bibliographies which will point the reader to further sources of information. (I will e-mail my 12-page bibliography on request).
A Note on Our Analysis of Beginning Greek Grammars
In the previous issue of AISI, we employed a review of a beginning Greek grammar by H. P. V. Nunn as a venue for surveying numerous books in the same class, among them one by William Mounce which we did not review favorably, in part--but only in part--because of very numerous errors in labeling forms, etc. Two readers wrote indicating that most such errors have been corrected in later printings (our review was of the first edition). While I am glad to hear of the corrections, I still would not change my negative evaluation of Mounce’s grammar, because of other matters which did not involve correctable errors.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Today by James C. VanderKam. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994. 210 pp., paperback.
The discovery, beginning in 1947, of ancient Hebrew OT manuscripts (along with other ancient Jewish writings) in caves near the north end of the Dead Sea is commonly hailed as the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century. It pushed back the date of the earliest known Hebrew manuscripts of the OT more than 1,000 years, from around A.D. 1,000 to before the time of Christ, or to within a few centuries of the writing of the latest OT books. It demonstrated that the OT text as known and propagated by the Jewish scribes in the Middle Ages was for all practical purposes the same as that known and used by Jesus and Paul, in short, that the Jews had faithfully transmitted the text for a millennium, which strongly suggests that they had done the same ever since the writing of the original documents still centuries earlier. We can use with confidence the Hebrew OT in our possession.
Besides the confirmation of the reliability of the Hebrew OT text available to us today, the “Dead Sea Scrolls,” in the many sectarian documents found with the Biblical manuscripts, gave us a view of a part of Jewish society and religion contemporary with, and even slightly preceding, the NT era. The disciplines of OT textual criticism, and of Jewish studies, were revolutionized.
Many books have been written on the famous scrolls--works by Burrows, Bruce, LaSor, Vermes, DuPont-Sommer, Cross and many others--which discussed the scrolls, their discovery, decipherment, publication (a work scandalously slow, completed only in the 1990s!), and questions regarding who copied the scrolls and where and when, and why they were stored in the caves where they were found. Most of these works have become hopeless out of date due to the progress of publication and study (F. F. Bruce’s Second Thoughts on the Dead Sea Scrolls was among the best of the first generation of introductory treatments). VanderKam’s book addresses the need for a more up-to-date general treatment.
VanderKam, at the time of writing was (and may still be for all I know) a professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Notre Dame University, and was one of the last of the scholars appointed to complete the publication of the DSS manuscripts. He does a commendable job of presenting an account of the scrolls’ discovery, their publication, and analysis, including the debates over who wrote them and when and why, and whether there was any direct connection with Christianity.
He concludes that the scrolls were copied by the residents of the near-by desert community of Qumran; that this religious sect was founded ca. 150 B.C. by a priest (identified only a “the teacher of righteousness” in the sectarian documents of the community), when the Maccabeans created an illegitimate priesthood; that the group was part of the Essene sect of Judaism long-known from Josephus and other ancient writers; that the settlement at Qumran waxed and waned until it was destroyed by the Romans A.D. 68 as part of the larger war with the Jews. He contends that there was no direct influence of the Qumranian community on John the Baptist, or Jesus, or on Christianity.
VanderKam gives a valuable survey of the scrolls--the Bible books represented and the number of manuscripts of each identified, plus the various sectarian documents, Bible “commentaries,” paraphrases, and other documents. He discusses adequately how the DSS affect the subject of the textual criticism of the OT.
With its merits, however, there are a number of flaws, most the result of uncritical acceptance of radical higher critical views concerning the OT. VanderKam blunderingly says that the OT canon was not settled even as late as the first century B. C., all the while quoting from Josephus and the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, among others, which clearly state that Jews recognized that the canon was closed centuries earlier. Further, from time to time, more incidental to remarks on other subjects than the focus of attention, the author mouths the standard radical higher critical line about Moses and the Pentateuch (the usual JEDP hooey), Isaiah (multiple authors), Daniel (a Maccabean date, and fictionalized narratives; he somehow ignores how the date of 150 B.C. for some of the DSS Daniel manuscripts makes the radical late-date of Daniel virtually impossible), and even books of the NT (nearly all pushed to post-A.D. 70). He imagines contradictions between John and the Synoptic Gospels, and between Jesus and Paul, and de facto denies the virgin birth (p. 184). These are serious flaws, and mar a work that otherwise could be recommended as a general introductory treatment of the subject. If read with caution by the discerning student, it can be recommended with reservations.