Date of this Version
Edward M. Cook's new book makes an excellent addition to the growing list of "introductions" to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Aimed primarily at a Christian lay and clerical audience, it succeeds admirably in leading its readers through the labyrinthine world of Scroll scholarship and controversy. The book divides itself into two uneven parts. In the first part, chapters 1-4, Cook deals with the discovery of the Scrolls in 1947 and the subsequent history of their decipherment and (often delayed) publication. Cook's treatment of this controversial topic is the most fair and evenhanded I have ever read; he has done meticulous research, reading many accounts of the Scrolls, from Edmund Wilson's in the 1950's to the latest journal articles from 1993. The result is a highly readable account of the finding and purchase of the Scrolls, the appointment of an international team of scholars to decipher and publish them, the delays in publication (including the results of the Six Day War in 1967, when most of the Scroll fragments fell into Israeli hands), and the controversy surrounding then editor-in-chief John Strugnell and the release of the photographs in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Cook is objective and fair throughout, but particularly striking is his sympathetic portrayal of the original seven member editorial team.