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September 13, 1991 - Image 32

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-13

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

' , Noixamumormovimmormolligillon11111111111111Pw."

BAC KG ROU N D

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Scholars Feud Over
Bootlegged Scroll

NOAM M.M. NEUSNER

Staff Writer

T

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32

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he Essenes have made
the front pages again,
thanks to the
squabbles of Dead Sea
Scrolls scholars.
In the latest round of
scholarly sparring, Dr. Ben-
Zion Wacholder announced •
that he had one-upped his
colleagues with a computer
reconstructed version of
Dead Sea Scroll fragments
— fragments that have not
been published by a select
group of scholars who retain
control over the original
scrolls.
The professor of Talmud,
who works at Hebrew Union
College in Cincinnati,
together with graduate stu-
dent Martin Abegg, used a
computer to reassemble cer-
tain Dead Sea Scroll texts
from a concordance.
A concordance lists, in al-
phabetical order, each word
used in the fragments, iden-
tifies the document in which
it appeared and gives the
words found adjacent to it.
The computer, using a
mechanical process akin to
reshuffling a stack of note
cards, put the words in the
order in which they are
believed to appear originally
in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The
whole idea of the project was
to make available a
transcript of the unpublish-
ed fragments to scholars
seeking to do research.
The unofficial transcript
was published in order to
break "the lock a small
group of scholars have hith-
erto maintained on the
scrolls," said Hershel
Shanks, publisher of the
Biblical Archaeology Review
and the publisher of Dr.
Wacholder's book.
The Wacholder publica-
tion, said Mr. Shanks,
"matches up very, very
well," to . the original scroll
fragment.
Since 1985, Mr. Shanks
has lobbied . in his maga-
zine's pages for the full
publication of all scrolls.
Publication, he says, has
been delayed because the of-
ficial scroll scholars intend
to interpret the primary
texts as well as transcribe
them.
"They want to write com-
mentary on these things,"
he said.
Scholars officially assign-
ed the translation of the
scrolls have denied Mr.
Shanks' claim that they

were dilatory. Last week,
they also maintained that
the Wacholder volume is rife
with error.
"The reliability of such a
document is highly ques-
tionable," said Eugene
Ulrich, a professor at Notre
Dame University, who was
interviewed last week on
public television's "MacNeil
Lehrer News Hour."
In addition to errors and
typos, which Dr. Wacholder
conceded were problems
with his text, critics charged
that Dr. Wacholder violated
an agreement by which he
received the concordance
from then-scrolls committee
head John Strugnell.
Much of what was publish-
ed in the Wacholder volume
overlaps material found in

"Everybody knew
two years ago that
this was a fiasco.
The job hadn't been
done right."

Prof. Lawrence Shiffman

the Damascus Document, a
work originally found by
Solomon Schechter in the
Cairo geniza, or a burial
ground for religious books,
in the late 1890's. The
Damascus Document
presents the views of a sect
of Jews which left Judah in
the first century B.C.E. in
order to follow a more ascetic
spiritual lifestyle in exile,
perhaps in Damascus.
Additional material in the
Wacholder volume deals
with the sect's synthesis of
the lunar and solar calen-
dars.
The significance of the ma-
terial released last week, ac-
cording to some scholars, is
not nearly as notable as the
circumstances surrounding
its publication.
"For my own research, this
is very important," said
Lawrence Shiffman, a pro-
fessor of Hebrew and Judaic
Studies at New York Uni-
versity. "When you get rid of
the hoopla, they have put a
lot into the arena that some
scholars have been wanting
for a long time?'
Prof. Shiffman's research
seeks to prove a connection
between the legal codes of
the Qumran sects and a
Sadducean group. From a
layperson's perspective,
Prof. Shiffman said Dr.
Wacholder's work was "not
earth-shattering."
What appears to have won

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