The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible

By Eugene Ulrich

Grand Rapids, MI

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999, 309 pp., $25.00

There is virtual consensus among Qumran scholars that Ulrich is preeminently qualified to describe the current state of our knowledge and the new paradigms that emerge in these studies. For the past twenty years, he has been the driving force behind the publication of the scrolls and much of the new evidence that has changed the scholarly understanding of the origins and history of the Hebrew and Greek Bible, as well as of the understanding of the canonical process.

This book is one in a projected series titled Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature. This series aims to make the latest and best Dead Sea Scroll scholarship accessible to scholars, students, and the thinking public. This effort counteracts the many uncritical and sensational hypotheses that have been advanced in the popular press.

This volume’s fourteen chapters are divided into two parts: “The .Scrolls and the Hebrew Bible” and “The Scrolls, The Septuagint, and the Old Latin.” Ulrich observes that “The Qumran manuscripts and the versions document the creativity of religious leaders and scribes who produced revised literary editions of many of the books of Scripture.” He adds, “If this was the way the Scriptures were composed, how do we isolate ‘the original text’?” He then proceeds to consider the various options and their relative merits.

Ulrich enables his reader to accompany the scholar as he considers the double literary editions of biblical narratives with his reflections on determining the form to be translated. Separate chapters address the canonical process, textual criticism, and later stages in the composition of the Bible, followed by the pluriformity in the Biblical text.

It may be that this author’s commendable meticulousness will assume more interest in and acquaintance with the issues than some readers actually will have. But he does write with a sensitivity to his readers and with winsome clarity. Members of the I.S.B.C. can look forward to this series of books and the substance and enlightenment they offer, as contrasted to the irresponsible and misleading views promulgated by the popular press.