The Bible at Qumran: Text, Shape, and Interpretation. Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Related Literature

By Peter W. Flint, ed.
Grand Rapids : Eerdmans (2001). xv + 266 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
15.2 (Fall 2004) : 256-257

This book is the fifth volume in a series designed to make “the latest and best Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship accessible to scholars, students, and the thinking public” (i). The first volume was Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Craig A. Evans and Peter W. Flint (Eerdmans, 1997). Other published volumes are as follows: Eugene Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Origins of the Bible (1999); Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Christian Origins (2000); Jodi Magness, The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls (2002). Of these the most significant are, in this reviewer’s opinion, the Fitzmyer and Magness volumes.

The Bible at Qumran focuses on two themes: the text of the Scriptures at Qumran together with its relation to canon and the ancient Jewish interpretation of these Scriptures by the community at Qumran and elsewhere (vii). The former of these themes is the topic for the first five essays by James A. Sanders (“Canon as Dialogue,” 7-26), Bruce K. Waltke (“How W e Got the Hebrew Bible: The Text and Canon of the Old Testament,” 27-50), Eugene Ulrich (“The Bible in the Making: The Scriptures Found at Qumran,” 51-66), Craig A. Evans (“The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Canon of Scripture in the Time of Jesus,” 67-79), and Peter W. Flint (“Noncanonical Writings in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Apocrypha, Other Previously Known Writings, Pseudepigrapha,” 80-126).

Sanders’s essay is nothing more than an argument for interfaith dialogue among the three monotheistic religions that leaves the reader thinking that the author’s reasoning could equally result in everyone being willing to give up real grapes for plastic grapes in their diet, because he would see no real distinction between the two. Waltke’s essay is excellent, but is identical to the one published in the first volume of The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (Zondervan, 1997). Ulrich’s contribution is basically a description of the materials found at Qumran with a brief summary of his conclusions. Primarily, he interprets the biblical text of that time as pluriform and composed in multiple layers (65). Evangelical readers will appreciate Evans’s essay and his discussion of the apparent tripartite division of the OT indicated by 4QMMT (“Matters regarding Works of the Law” from Qumran Cave 4) and Luke 24. He concludes that the two authors probably intended a merism—all parts of the OT attest to the points they were making (79). Variations in the use and definition of “Apocrypha” and “Pseudepigrapha” occupy Flint’s attention in his essay. Besides providing new, more consistent definitions, he classifies the works found at Qumran into their respective categories. His treatment of Daniel as potentially pseudepigraphical (81, 108) mars an otherwise superb essay.

Six essays make up the latter part of the volume, giving attention to the theme of ancient Jewish interpretation inside and outside Qumran: James C. Vanderkam, “The Interpretation of Genesis in 1 Enoch” (129-48); Craig A. Evans, “Abraham in the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Man of Faith and Failure” (149-58); James E. Bowley, “Moses in the Dead Sea Scrolls: Living in the Shadow of God’s Anointed” (159-81); James M. Scott, “Korah and Qumran” (182-202); Martin G. Abegg, Jr., “4QMMT, Paul, and ‘W orks of the Law’” (203-16); and Robert W. W all, “The Intertextuality of Scripture: The Example of Rahab (James 2:25)” (217-36).

These essays examine the way the Qumran texts handle biblical texts like Gen 6:1-4 (Vanderkam’s examination of 1 Enoch) and Numbers 16–17 (Scott’s analysis of a Cave 4 fragment’s reference to Korah). Evans attempts to deal with questions about the call of Abram (Gen 12:1-4) and about his deceptions (12:10-20 and 20:1-18). Bowley merely surveys the references to Moses in Qumran literature to conclude the obvious: Moses dominates the texts and much of the community’s theological thinking (180-81). Theological and exegetical issues in the last two contributions are a bit more interesting. Abegg’s essay looks at the phrase “works of the law” in 4QMMT and Galatians. After admitting that there is little common ground between 4QMMT and Romans/Galatians (206), he still concludes that E. P. Sanders’s “new perspective” provides the solution (215, 216). Wall’s treatment of intertextuality in Jas 2:21-26 reveals some very interesting parallel themes and vocabulary between the OT accounts of Abraham and Rahab and the text in James.