Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 10 (2010) - Review

Ulrich, Eugene,The Biblical Qumran Scrolls: Transcriptions and Textual Variants (VTSup, 134; Leiden: Brill, 2010). Pp. xvi+796. Hardcover. US$ 199.00, ISBN 978-90-04-18038-3.

The title and the subtitle of this book describe its content exactly: the main body of the book presents all the texts from biblical Quman manuscripts. It is a critical edition of the “Qumran Bible.” There are no photographs included, but transcriptions of the texts and the variants are provided based on the relevant DJD (Discoveries in the Judaean Desert) editions. This is an extremely helpful tool for anyone studying the Hebrew Bible because it allows quick and reliable access to the oldest biblical manuscripts available.

In this edition “biblical scrolls” means those books stemming from the Tanakh as found in DJD. Not included, therefore, are manuscripts of books such as Jubilees, 1 Enoch or Sirach. There are fragments of 20 Genesis manuscripts, 16 Exodus manuscripts, 13 Leviticus manuscripts, 6/7 Numbers manuscripts, 28/30 Deuteronomy manuscripts, 3 Joshua manuscripts, 4 Judges manuscripts, 4 Samuel manuscripts, 3 Kings manuscripts, 21 Isaiah manuscripts, 6 Jeremiah manuscripts, 6 Ezekiel manuscripts, 8 manuscripts of the Twelve Prophets, 35/37 Psalms manuscripts, 4 Job manuscripts, 3 Proverbs manuscripts, 4 Ruth manuscripts, 4 Canticles manuscripts, 2 Qohelet manuscripts, 4 Lamentations manuscripts, 8 Daniel manuscripts, 1 Ezra manuscript and 1 Chronicles manuscript.

The transcriptions and variants are mostly identical to those in the DJD collections. At some points they are updated and introduce necessary corrections of the information found in the DJD editions. In other cases they omit lengthy explanations that are unnecessary for this book. For detailed information about the manuscripts the preface refers to the introductions of the relevant DJD volumes. While it might have been helpful to have provided some information about the dating of the particular scrolls and fragments included in the edition, it is understandable that the editor did not want to suggest an undemonstrable degree of certainty for the dates of scrolls or fragments.. However, at least a reference to the respective DJD volume indicating the number of the volume would have been in order. The decision was instead just to indicate “Based on the editions by N.N.”

The book ends with an index of biblical passages attested in the biblical scrolls found not only at Qumran, but from the Judaean Desert. Not included are the tefillin, mezuzot, pesharim, and biblical quotations cited in nonbiblical manuscripts.

What this edition presents is not new. The biblical texts from Qumran were available in the respective DJD volume prior to the publication of this volume. Several lists of the biblical passages in the Qumran scrolls were also published in the “Dead Sea Discoveries” or the Revue de Qumran which led to the relevant publications. What is new with this book is that both elements—all the texts with their variants and a list of all biblical passages—are now united in a very carefully prepared edition, making it an indispensable tool for scholars and students of the Hebrew Bible, ancient Judaism, and the New Testament. This book will certainly advance the awareness of the significance of the biblical Qumran texts, and it will enhance the usage of them in the field of biblical studies through its ease of use.

Konrad Schmid, University of Zurich