Monday, August 27, 2012

TLtS: Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls

I’ve been reading “Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls edited by Hershel Shanks.  First, let me clarify that the Dead Sea Scrolls consist of six mostly intact scrolls and hundreds of manuscripts in two thousand year old, brittle, desert-seared fragile fragments.  You’d think a book about these literary shards would be dry.  No!  It’s an amazing anthology!  Parts read like an adventure novel; how the shepherds found the scrolls in a cave high up on a cliff, the “cloak and dagger” world of antiquities and the bombshells for a layman like me.

Various articles cover the standardization of the Pentateuch under Ezra and the Old Testament under Hillel.  I’ve learned a lot of interesting things about the Pharisees, Sadducees and Essene.  The latter occupied the monastery amidst the 11 caves used as libraries.  

Now for a few things that amazed me;

First, 1 Chronicles 28:19 “All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.”  King David is referring to the blue prints for the Temple.  So, where are they?  Why aren’t they part of the Old Testament?  How did the blueprints get lost?  They didn’t.  All this is covered in the Temple Scroll found amidst the Dead Sea Scrolls.  And there are several copies of it.  Who knew there was lost books of the Bible?   

Second, in the eleven “libraries” amongst the hundreds of books there are copies of ever book in the Old Testament except one.  There is not one copy of Esther.  Know why?  Because God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther.  I guess I knew that, but truth is fleeting. 

Third, in re-reading Esther this weekend I noticed something else.  There’s a scene missing between Esther 7-8. 
 7And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.                                          Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king's mouth, they covered Haman's face.”

So, what happen when the king went outside to cool off?  All of the sudden Haman was over powered by lust for Esther?  He tripped and just happen to be straddled on the queen when the king returned?  Esther tripped him and “rent her garments” when she saw her husband returning?  Whatever happen Esther’s servants were quick to cover Haman’s mouth so his side of the story couldn’t come out before he was promptly hung. 

What particularly confuses me is that Moses Maimonides comment on Esther.  Maimonides is  a philosopher and scholar whom I much admire.  To quote his commentary  on Laws of the Scroll (of Esther) 2:18, "When Messiah comes, the other books may pass away, but the Torah (Old Testament ) and Esther will abide forever."  Moses was much wiser and better educated in Biblical matters than I so I guess I’ll take his work for it.  Still I wonder.  I looked at some of the allegorical interpretation of the book and they reek of desperation.  So I guess I’ll accept the Esther at face value.  Maybe even follow Normandi Ellis advice in “Awakening Osiris” and contemplate a “bit of legend fallen from the lips of a slave girl”. 

All in all, I highly recommend “Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls”

PS: The Dead Sea Scrolls do not include any Christian writings.

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