Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version

April 1998


Published in Dead Sea Discoveries 5:1 (1998), pp. 107-111. Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 1998. Used by permission.


The Hidden Scrolls: Christianity, Judaism, and the War for the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Neil Asher Silberman. New York: Riverhead Books, 1994; London: Heinemann, 1995. Pp. xiv + 306. ISBN 0-434-70288-9.

Neil Asher Silberman, a popular writer and journalist who specializes in the area of archaeology and history of the Ancient Mediterranean, has written a fine book for the general public on the Dead Sea Scrolls in the tradition of Edmund Wilson’s The Scrolls from the Dead Sea. Silberman has a knack for taking what would in other hands be dry, esoteric subjects and rendering them into a popular idiom without robbing them of their nuance and complexity. He also has a gift for description, bringing to life the characters and landscapes of the DSS in such a way as to capture the imagination and make the book an enjoyable “read.”

The book has two purposes: to present the modern history of the DSS from the time of their discovery in 1947 until the copyright litigation over 4QMMT in 1993, and to offer a theory concerning the ideology of the scrolls and the people who owned them, as well as their connection to the events in the one hundred years that led to the Great Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66 CE. While most readers will be more interested in the former, it is through the latter that Silberman makes a contribution to Qumran scholarship.

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